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Dad vows to fight on over soldier's death

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: January 10, 2013

By Fran McElhone

  • Ian Sadler

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THE father of an Exmouth soldier killed in Afghanistan has vowed to continue his campaign to launch legal action against the Ministry of Defence.

Ian Sadler, 61, from Exmouth claims the MoD "committed perjury" at the inquest of his soldier son. But Devon & Cornwall Police, which has been investigating his claims, has now said there is no case to answer.

TA Trooper Jack Sadler, 21, died after his armoured Land Rover was blown up by a roadside bomb in Helmand province in December 2007.

Mr Sadler believes had Jack been travelling in a vehicle capable of withstanding mine blasts, he would be alive today.

In December 2011, Mr Sadler presented a 30,000-word report into the incident to a senior officer from the Devon & Cornwall Police during a three-hour meeting.

He asked the police to investigate the MoD, claiming some of its evidence was misleading and untrue at the Exeter inquest.

But a letter from Russ Middleton, detective chief superintendent and commander of crime and criminal justice for the force has informed Mr Sadler they will not be investigating his claims further.

Trooper Sadler, who was educated at Exeter School, was in an armoured Land Rover when it was blown up by a Taliban mine.

Mr Sadler, who set up the Military Families Support Group, said he wanted to "expose the MoD" for giving what he claims was misleading evidence over the safety of the vehicles during the three-day inquest in July 2009. He insists his 85-page report shows the MoD "lied over the validity of the protection offered by the vehicles".

At the inquest, Exeter and Greater Devon deputy coroner Darren Salter concluded the MoD was not negligent. But he accepted the vehicle used at the time had no protection against mine blasts, though subsequent models had been strengthened.

He said the mine had exploded in what witnesses had felt was a low-risk area, and added that the nature of the vehicle's body armour "made no difference to the outcome".

Mr Sadler's dossier includes transcripts given by people, including officials from the MoD at the inquest, and followed a highly critical inquiry by the House of Commons Defence Committee this summer which condemned the MoD for failing to provide troops serving in Afghanistan with adequate protective equipment.

Mr Sadler believes Land Rovers are "inferior" vehicles for the task of travelling across land where mines have been laid.

The former owner of Troopers military uniform shop in Exmouth said the vehicles did not have V-shaped hulls to deflect explosions – introduced to subsequent and, he says, "much safer" military vehicles in Afghanistan.

In the letter to Mr Sadler, Det Chief Supt Middleton said: "The legal requirements for successfully establishing the criminal offence of perjury are onerous. It must be proven beyond all reasonable doubt that a person has willfully made a false statement before a court when lawfully sworn as a witness, knowing that statement to be false."

He went on to say the majority of Mr Sadler's allegations do not constitute perjury, "even if a criminal investigation were to substantiate your allegations".

Using one of Mr Sadler's allegations as an example, Det Chief Supt Middleton described it as amounting to a "difference of opinion" between him and the MoD "as opposed to a willfully false statement".

Mr Sadler, a former Royal Engineer, has now sent a letter to the police Professional Services department which will consider whether he has grounds to make a complaint against the decision.

He said: "I feel angry and hurt – there has been no closure for me. I feel all this about our lads being remembered is a load of rubbish.

"They are going out there being told they've got a high level of protection in their vehicles which in my view doesn't exist. I want to ensure they have the best vehicles for the job.

"I can't come to terms with my son's death without trying to understand why it happened."

Mr Sadler said he also believed the well-publicised shortage of helicopters in the war zone also played a part in his son's death. The day my son died he was on a two-day convoy transporting light guns and ammunition," he said. "They were travelling at 7km per hour. I believe it should have been transported into position by Chinook."

A MoD spokesman, said: "Our sympathies remain with Mr Sadler following the death of his son Jack. The independent coroner was given access to all the information available during the course of his inquest and was not misled.

"Our troops have access to a range of protected vehicles including Mastiff, Ridgeback, Husky, Wolfhound, Jackal and Foxhound, giving commanders the ability to match the most appropriate available vehicle to specific tasks based on risk."

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