By Tony Collins
Thank you to James Arbuthnot MP, who is chair of the Defence Committee, for recognising in the House of Commons the work, which had my byline on it, to clear a stain on the reputations of Flight Lieutenants Jonathan Tapper and Richard Cook, the pilots of Chinook ZD576 that crashed in the Mull of Kintyre on 2 June 1994.
The crash killed all 29 on board, including 25 VIPs of the Northern Ireland intelligence community. Two air marshals found Cook and Tapper grossly negligent. After a 16-year campaign by the families of Cook and Tapper, the government last week set aside the finding of gross negligence. In the House of Commons on 13 July Defence Secretary Liam Fox apologised to the Cook and Tapper families.
After his announcement in the Commons, several MPs and former defence ministers who had campaigned alongside the families of Cook and Tapper, stood up and made short speeches that congratulated Fox for his decisive action in clearing the names of the pilots.
Among them was James Arbuthnot who persuaded the Conservative Party to commit to setting up the independent review of the evidence arising from the crash, prior to the 2010 general election.
Arbuthnot spent more than 10 years seeking to clear the pilots’ names. For some years he led the Parliamentary cross-party group of MPs and peers, the Mull of Kintyre Group.
Arbuthnot told the Commons on 13 July:
“Will my right honorable friend [Liam Fox] acknowledge that a massive contribution to this famous victory was made by people such as Brian Dixon [who ran campaign-justice.org] and Tony Collins of Computer Weekly and David Harrison of Channel 4, the noble Lord O’Neill, and people from both sides of this House and of another place in contributing to the notion that justice should finally be done and closure should arrive?”
Replying, Fox said that “there are many beyond this House who have sought resolution in this case for a very long time”. He added: “They played an important part in keeping the issue alive for long enough for justice to be done. It does not matter how long it takes; it matters that it is done in the end.”
Arbuthnot’s mention of Computer Weekly is a tribute to all those at the magazine who did so much to help the campaign, or made possible our many articles on the poor development and deployment of the Chinook MK2’s safety-critical “Fadec” software. They included Karl Schneider, Hooman Bassirian, Mike Simons, Ian Mitchell, Stuart Nissen, Bill Goodwin, Lindsay Clark, Julia Hoare, John Riley, Alison Noble, Beverley de Valmency, Paul Mason, Toby Poston, Christian Annesley, Numa Kelleher, Mark Lewis, and later Georgina Tucker, Brian McKenna, Rebecca Froley and James Garner. Thank you to all – and apologies to anyone whose names I have missed.