- Serena Alexander’s son Sam died serving alongside Sgt Alex Blackman.
- She said everyone in unit was ‘dreadfully traumatised’ by ‘tour from hell’.
- It culminated in Marine Blackman shooting a wounded Taliban gunman.
- But Mrs Alexander said: ‘Any of the lads could have reacted in that way’.
- Blackman’s family and supporters have launched a fighting fund to support the costs of his appeal. To contribute, visit www.dailymail.co.uk/blackman
The mother of a decorated war hero who lost his life serving alongside Alexander Blackman yesterday backed the jailed commando’s campaign for justice, saying: ‘Any of the lads could have reacted in that way.’
Defence chiefs have admitted commanders failed to spot the warning signs of ‘psychological strain and fatigue’ in Sergeant Blackman’s unit.
Retired headmistress Serena Alexander said everyone in the unit was ‘dreadfully traumatised’ by the tour, which claimed the life of her son Sam, 28, and six of his comrades. It also injured 40 others, and left many suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Marine Alexander, who had previously won the Military Cross for extreme bravery – saving lives despite having been shot himself – was killed by a Taliban improvised bomb while on patrol in Helmand Province.
The 2011 ‘tour from hell’ culminated in Sgt Blackman losing control and shooting a wounded Taliban gunman.
Yesterday Mrs Alexander, 60, said: ‘I can see that any of the lads could have reacted in that way. The man who died had been stalking and attacking them, so it’s not unnatural to turn around and shoot someone. It could have been any of the lads. It could have been any of us I suppose is what I’m really saying.’
Offering her staunch backing to Sgt Blackman and his wife Claire, she said: ‘It’s very hard for us to judge how our loved ones would behave under that sort of pressure so, therefore, I have all the sympathy for her [Claire]. I feel very sorry for his family in this situation, so he definitely has my support.’
Blackman is the only British serviceman known to have been convicted of murder on a foreign battlefield.
The insurgent he killed in September 2011 had already been horrifically injured attacking a British outpost.
Mrs Alexander, who lives in Hammersmith, West London, said Sgt Blackman should have faced a lesser charge of manslaughter, which she believes would have been reasonable ‘given the stress that the boys are under’.
She added: ‘I can see it’s a stress reaction against someone who has been hunting you until a few minutes beforehand.’
A Mail investigation has discovered that Colonel Oliver Lee, the youngest Marine to achieve the rank of colonel since the Second World War, quit his career in disgust because he was blocked from giving evidence to Sgt Blackman’s court martial.
He would have attempted to put the shooting into the context of the stress the men were under, as the Taliban killed and maimed their comrades and hung their mutilated limbs from trees.
Blackman’s new legal team say the option of manslaughter was never considered.
Mrs Alexander said: ‘I think manslaughter on diminished responsibility would be entirely correct, given the stress they were under. It is impossible for us as civilians to judge what it’s like out there, so it needs someone who actually has been there. We can’t judge, we weren’t there.’
Three and a half months before the Blackman shooting, Marine Alexander, who was born in Hammersmith in 1982, was killed in a Taliban attack.
An improvised explosive device, hidden in an archway, also claimed the lives of Lieutenant Ollie Augustin, 23, and their Afghan interpreter – and severely wounded several others.
Marine Alexander left a wife, Claire, and a son who was less than a year old.
The Marine’s mother said: ‘Alexander Blackman wasn’t with them when the bomb went off, but they certainly all knew each other. In Sam’s unit there were six caught up in the explosion, of whom three were killed, and the other six had to go in and literally pick up the pieces of their comrades.
‘They were obviously extremely traumatised. I’ve met them all. And that was only one of several explosions J-Company had to deal with.
‘I know that some of those lads have suffered very severely from post-traumatic stress disorder ever since. Sgt Blackman was there in Helmand when Sam died, so of course he would have been affected by it, and if people are still moved by his death now, imagine what it would have been like at the time.’
Mrs Alexander said it was her son’s second tour of Afghanistan – the first was in 2009 – and he had spoken about how difficult the conditions were.
She added: ‘If you think of the explosion that killed Sam and Ollie and the interpreter, that was a remotely-operated IED – someone had wired it up and waited for them, then triggered it. That’s the sort of event that those boys had to see, day in, day out, when they were out there.’
- A shameful injustice: Campaign fights to overturn conviction of Marine given life for ‘murdering’ Taliban in the heat of battle as shocking flaws in his trial are revealed
- A fall guy for a fiasco: Two of his comrades were blown to pieces, a third was tortured and the severed limbs of another were hung from a tree by the Taliban – such was the hell a ‘superb’ Marine endured
- How hero colonel resigned in protest at the betrayal of Sergeant Blackman and ‘a failure of moral courage by the chain of command’
- ‘The world is not a better place with Al in prison’: Watch Sergeant Blackman’s wife make a heartfelt appeal for her husband’s freedom
- Hell that drove hero to the brink: Day by bloody day came torture, murder and atrocities that would shred the strongest nerves. Read what Sgt Blackman endured and ask: Would you have SNAPPED?
- Truth censored by the top brass: Evidence that backs jailed Marine Alexander Blackman to be cynically suppressed
- Court martial panel ‘was split 5-2 over guilty verdict’
- How Mail launched fight to overturn Marine’s conviction
- DAILY MAIL COMMENT: A shameful injustice only a retrial can fix
- A shameful injustice: Now we reveal top brass plot to cover up vital evidence that could vindicate Marine given life for ‘murdering’ Taliban in the heat of battle
- I’ve asked Al difficult questions – but NEVER doubted him: In a powerfully moving interview, Sgt Blackman’s wife reveals how his imprisonment for ‘murder’ has devastated her life too
- MPs join fight to clear Taliban murder Marine: Call to release sergeant jailed for killing fatally-wounded Afghan
- Mail readers boost legal fund for Sergeant Blackman to £73,000 in just two days
- You have given us a glimmer of hope, says wife of jailed Marine Alexander Blackman as donations from Mail readers top £100,000
- I’d have done just the same – hero Colonel backs ‘murder Marine’ fight, saying the commando had done ‘nothing immoral’
- Every day in battle was like Rorke’s Drift – no wonder he snapped. But now he is a scapegoat: In a furious interview, thriller writer Frederick Forsyth drops dark hints about Sgt Blackman’s court martial
- What an insult! Fury of jailed Marine’s wife as military chiefs fob her off again with heavily censored report
- I’d follow Al through the gates of hell. This terrible injustice must be corrected: Marine who lost leg on ‘hellish’ Afghan tour backs campaign for his ex-sergeant
- Widow, 90, whose six brothers fought the Nazis donates £1,000 to Sergeant Blackman appeal and tells of her disgust at his treatment by military chiefs
- Civilians can never understand the ‘hell and horrors of the frontline’ says former Royal Marine peer who believes Sergeant Blackman court martial was ‘flawed’
- SARAH VINE: Grandpa and why my heart breaks for jailed hero
- Evidence that could win justice for Marine: Mail uncovers bombshell report censored by MoD that says Marines were pushed to be too aggressive and senior officers failed to spot mental strain and fatigue
- Marine’s wife watches in dignified silence as MPs demand justice for ‘extraordinary man’ who was victim of a ‘miscarriage of justice’
Marine Alexander, who was educated at St Paul’s School in London, was awarded the Military Cross for his one-man charge on enemy fighters, despite having been shot in the head himself.
His ‘ferocious’ assault provided cover for medics to save a wounded soldier – and forced his enemies to flee. His mother still has a photo of her son showing his helmet with the bullet hole.
Mrs Alexander said: ‘I was extremely proud of him, I always knew he was special and he proved it.’
She added: ‘Sam wanted to help people so if any good can come of his death, then it’s a good thing. That’s all Sam wanted to do, that’s why he joined the Marines.’
£50k boost for fighting fund from Lord Ashcroft
If you would like to contribute, visit www.dailymail.co.uk/blackman
By Richard Pendlebury and Sam Greenhill
The fund to finance Alexander Blackman’s legal campaign in his fight for justice has been boosted by a £50,000 gift from businessman, pollster and philanthropist Lord Ashcroft.
Amid an extraordinary outpouring of public generosity, the donation from the former Conservative Party deputy chairman and treasurer is the largest single contribution to the campaign yet.
Last night – with reader donations now topping an incredible £300,000 – it helped push the overall total beyond £350,000.
Lord Ashcroft said: ‘It is important that justice is allowed to run its full course, and I am pleased therefore to help Sergeant Blackman make his case.’
The military historian has a long-standing interest in the well-being of Britain’s Armed Forces.
In 2012 he was made Prime Minister David Cameron’s tsar for veterans. An authority on gallantry, Lord Ashcroft has also assembled the world’s largest collection of Victoria Cross medals.
He spent £5million building an extension to the Imperial War Museum in London in which the VCs are on display.
He has also written no fewer than five best-selling books about the bravery of Commonwealth military servicemen and women.
He founded Crimestoppers and the Ashcroft Technology Academy, and has also signed up to the Giving Pledge – meaning that he is one of a small number of wealthy individuals or families worldwide who have promised to donate more than half of their wealth to worthy causes.
Sgt Blackman’s wife Claire Blackman said last night: ‘We are hugely grateful to all donations large and small but Lord Ashcroft’s generosity is overwhelming.’
Cheques and online donations continued to pour in from members of the public yesterday who are clearly outraged by the injustice.
Many were accompanied by messages demanding Sgt Blackman be given a fair trial and released from his incarceration.
Colin Peter, of Hemel Hempstead, in Hertfordshire, wrote: ‘We send them to give their lives for our security, then we judge them when they stumble.’
Ken Robinson said: ‘I was under the impression that a man must be tried by his peers.
‘Those who have not experienced battlefield conditions are in no way fit to act as judges on a man who went through hell, as many of our soldiers do!’
And another reader, Janis Whiddett, wrote: ‘A shameful episode in British justice on someone we should be celebrating.’
The money that is being raised for Sgt Blackman will fund his new team of lawyers, who have at least a year’s work to challenge his imprisonment. Their first step is to prepare a lengthy report for the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the statutory agency that considers potential miscarriages of justice.
They must introduce compelling new evidence that has not been heard before by the court martial or during Sgt Blackman’s first, failed, appeal last year.
If the CCRC believes there is a valid case, it has the power to send it back to the appeal court.
The whole process will be costly, and take months, but thanks to the generosity of readers – and Lord Ashcroft – Sgt Blackman and his wife have been given fresh hope.
Families’ fury as Mail reveals top brass ‘cover-up’
By Sam Greenhill, Richard Pendlebury and Andy Dolan
Families of Marines killed in Afghanistan accused military chiefs of ‘covering their backs’ yesterday as the Mail published a leaked report revealing how failings were hushed up.
Outraged relatives said they had been kept in the dark about devastating mistakes on the battlefield exposed in a Navy internal inquiry codenamed Operation Telemeter.
The secret dossier, leaked to the Mail, showed how the men were catastrophically let down by commanders on the ‘tour from hell’ in 2011.
Military chiefs tried to hide the blunders, refusing to publish the damning 50-page report and releasing only the executive summary with key sections blotted out by the censor’s black pen.
But the Mail’s uncensored version reveals that top brass confessed that the Marines of 42 Commando were pushed to be ‘overly aggressive’, and blamed officers for failing to spot the mental strain and fatigue being suffered by their men.
The MoD had censored the admission of command failings in Helmand. In public, it solely blamed Sgt Blackman for his actions on the day of the shooting.
But its report said: ‘Supervision by a commanding officer where Blackman and his men were based was insufficient to identify a number of warning signs that could have indicated they were showing evidence of moral regression, psychological strain and fatigue.’
After pressure from the Mail, defence ministers caved in on Wednesday and offered the full 50-page Telemeter report to Blackman’s lawyers. Last night the family of a Marine who was killed on the disastrous 2011 tour voiced their anger.
Lance Corporal Martin Gill, 22, died when he was shot by insurgents on June 5. His uncle Paul Gunter, 65, of Gedling, Nottinghamshire, said it came as ‘little surprise’ that the family were not informed of the Telemeter inquiry as ‘the MoD tries to cover its back anyway wherever possible’.
He added: ‘It is only through newspaper campaigns such as this that these sort of things end up coming to the fore.’
Mr Gunter acknowledged that certain parts of the report may need to be kept under wraps for security reasons, but he called on top brass to make as much of it public as possible, adding: ‘The report needs to be published in full so the public can form their own opinions of what actually went on during this tour of duty.’
Sergeant Blackman’s family and supporters have launched a fighting fund to support the legal costs of his appeal.
If you would like to contribute, visit www.dailymail.co.uk/blackman