British soldiers cleared in friendly fire case.

An Iraqi, Zahir Zabti Zaher, got what was inevitable after throwing stones at British soldiers - he was shot at. But a British soldier was caught in the shooting....

No British soldiers will face charges over the shootings which led to the deaths of Sgt Steven Roberts and a civilian in Iraq.

The Attorney General announced yesterday that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute seven soldiers under investigation in connection with the killings on 24 March 2003.

Sgt Roberts, 33, from Shipley, West Yorkshire, with the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, had been ordered to give his enhanced body armour to another soldier because of a shortage of equipment, when he was hit by "friendly fire" during disturbances at Al Zubayr near Basra. The Iraqi, Zahir Zabti Zaher, was repeatedly shot in the same incident while allegedly throwing stones at the troops. Iraqi human rights activists claimed that he had been "executed" by soldiers enraged at the death of Sgt Roberts.

Samantha Roberts, the sergeant's widow, said: "The fact remains that three years after my husband's death I know little more about how he came to meet his death than when I was first told that he had been killed. This is not a satisfactory situation either for myself, Steve's family or all the people who loved him and feel the loss."

Mrs Roberts, 34, added: "I can only hope that the coroner will now conduct an inquest into the circumstances of Steve's death with full access to the evidence that has been gathered by prosecuting authorities."

In an audio diary recorded for his wife before he died, Sgt Roberts had complained about lack of protection. "It's disheartening because we know we are going to war without the correct equipment," he said in one tape. "It will be interesting to see what armour I actually get. I will keep you posted".

Sgt Roberts' mother, Marion Chapman, said: "Steve would still be here today if he had that jacket on, which they seem to push under the carpet."

Inquiries by the Royal Military Police were halted by Lord Goldsmith in October 2004 because of "a concerted attempt by the chain of command to influence and prevent an investigation". He turned the matter over to the Metropolitan Police. "I was concerned that the intervention by the chain of command, and the delays in the case, could have led to defence lawyers raising abuse of process arguments had the soldiers been charged with criminal offences," said the Attorney General.

The civilian police officers discovered a number of new witnesses, including American soldiers who saw the incident. Police also exhumed the body of Mr Zaher for a post-mortem examination.

Lord Goldsmith told the House of Lords yesterday that it would have been better to have concluded a full investigation earlier. "I very much regret the stress that any delay must have caused Mrs Roberts, Mr Zaher's relatives and the soldiers and their families," he said.

Lord Goldsmith insisted that the Crown Prosecution Service now had a "full account" of what happened. He said Sgt Roberts was on a patrol with three Challenger II tanks when Mr Zaher began throwing stones. After signalling him to stop, Sgt Roberts, who was standing alone outside his tank, is said to have fired one shot from his pistol before it jammed. Soldiers in the tanks opened fire and the sergeant was hit by two bullets. . . .
It was a terribly stupid act to throw rocks at tanks; but not bad enough to warrant being killed over it In other words,no sympathy for the dead Brit either.

Sgt Roberts' mother, Marion Chapman, said: "Steve would still be here today if he had that jacket on, which they seem to push under the carpet."

Just some FYI for the masses. He'd most likely still be dead, regardless if he was wearing PPE issued by the Royal Army. The British body armour is sub-par when compared to the rest of the NATO nations. In fact, most nations; i.e. The U.S., France, Canada, Australia, Germany, etc, have been using (for some time) ballistic plates inserted in to kevlar vests. These plates are made of ceramic and in Canada's case can stop point blank 7.62mm rounds. The British Army only has a small steel plate inserted in the vest to cover the heart. Anyone who knows anything about PPE and ammunition knows that kevlar will not stop a 5.56mm round. He'd more than likely still be dead, as tragic as that is.

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