Mum of Brit soldier, 22, forgives best friend after he admits to accidentally shooting him dead on Iraq tour

Mum of Brit soldier, 22, forgives best friend after he admits to accidentally shooting him dead on Iraq tour

THE grieving mum of a British soldier has forgiven his best friend after he admitted he accidentally shot him dead.
Anne Hetherington, 59, described Colin Theaker as a “broken soul” after he unintentionally fired a service pistol at her son, Lance Corporal Scott Hetherington in 2017.
Anne Hetherington’s son was shot and killed whilst on tour in Iraq in January 2017
Colin Theaker (left) and Scott Hetherington (right) were best friends since both joining the Army
Colin pleaded guilty on Monday to killing his best friend with a single shot while “playing around” with the weapon in their accommodation at an Army camp in Iraq.
But Anne says the tragedy goes beyond just the loss of her son — which is why she forgave Colin.
She previously told The Sun on Sunday: “Two young men died that day but one of them is still breathing. Colin admits he would have taken his own life if I hadn’t forgiven him.
“He can’t cope with what happened. I am a grieving mum but he is drowning in not just grief but guilt, too. I haven’t mourned my son yet… I need to make sure Colin survives.”
LCpl Theaker appeared in Catterick Garrison court martial centre via a video link where he pleaded guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence.
His defence barrister, Ben Knight, read a statement in which Colin described the shooting as a “terrible accident”.
He added: “There was no ill feeling or malice between us. He was my best friend.”
The court was told that a soldier in the room next to Colin and Scott heard the victim say something like “no, no don’t do that” before the sound of the gunshot, The Telegraph reports.
Scott, who was just 22 when he died, was given a funeral with full military honours in his hometown of Middleton, Greater Manchester in the following weeks.
He was the first British military fatality in Iraq since 2009.
Mum Anne previously described the awful moment Colin came to her when he returned from Iraq.
She told The Sun on Sunday: “Colin handed me Scott’s dog tags and we broke down and sobbed.
“He was so overwhelmed by guilt. He couldn’t grasp why I didn’t hate him or want him dead, too. He was totally broken. He still is.”
Anne talks with Colin every day, sometimes via text, other times over dinner or a cup of tea.
Anne added: “I don’t see my behaviour as anything remarkable. These lads were more than just friends. They were like brothers and went through so much together. Colin is a huge part of our family and it’s tragic that Scott’s life should end at his hands, but this was a terrible accident.
“Colin has to live with this for the rest of his life and it breaks my heart all over again to see him reeling in despair.
“If I believed for one moment Scott was shot through malice I’d want his killer to rot in jail.
“Nothing could be further from the truth.”
He is a broken soul. I’ve never known something so tragic. Anne speaking about Colin
The men, both Lance Corporals in the 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster Regiment, were deployed to Baghdad in December 2016 to train local forces to fight ISIS. Scott had Christmas early with his family.
He had become a dad that October after partner Savannah Brown, 19 at the time, gave birth to daughter Safaya Rose. Colin was godfather.
Anne recalled: “There was Scott, his twin sister Sian, who was expecting, his brother Nigel, and Savannah and baby Safaya Rose.
“I felt so content that I actually thanked God for all that was good in life. And Scott reassured me that there was nothing to worry about in Iraq, as it was simply a training mission.”
He chatted regularly with Anne, a support worker for adults with mental health and disabilities, after his deployment.
They would send each other photos of sunsets and sunrises.
Fighting back tears, Anne said: “The last picture he sent me was of a sunset with the words, ‘I love you momma bear’.”
Scott and Colin were in their living quarters at Camp Taji on January 2 when Colin fired his pistol, wounding his pal in the stomach with the single shot.
Scott, a vehicle commander in the Force Protection Platoon, died as a result of the incident, which was classed as “friendly fire” by Army chiefs.”ENOUGH PUNISHMENT FOR HIM”
Anne screamed after military officials delivered the heartbreaking news that her son was dead.
Scott’s regiment held a service in Iraq before his body was repatriated.
Colin also returned and immediately went to see Anne.
She said: “I knew early on that Colin had fired the gun and as soon as he arrived home he told me what had happened.
“Colin spent every day with Scott in the funeral parlour, talking to him and telling him how sorry he was. He still sobs his heart out and I just listen. He says he’d change places with Scott in a heartbeat — and I believe him.
“He sees the scenario of shooting his best friend over and over in his head. That is enough punishment for him.
“I feel nothing but compassion for him because no court sentence will ever be as harsh as what he will face for the rest of his life in his heart.
“In his mind he has taken Scott’s life and therefore didn’t deserve to be alive himself, even though it was an accident.
“I’ve already told him to stop thinking about doing something stupid because Scott won’t be there to welcome him with open arms if he takes his own life.”
Despite the devastation of losing her son, there was never any doubt in Anne’s mind of putting her own feelings to one side to help Colin, who she describes as being like one of her own.
Scott had wanted to join the Army since he was eight.
By the age of 17 he had signed up and was ready to serve in Afghanistan as soon as he turned 18.
After that tour, he met Colin back home at Weeton Barracks, near Blackpool.
If the roles were reversed I know I wouldn’t want Scott to be suffering as Colin is.Anne Hetherington
Anne said: “I lived in fear of the knock on the door when he was over there but I knew he’d settle in with the other soldiers.
“Scott always made friends easily because he was loud, fun but also very kind. He never stopped larking around and smiling.
“When he met Colin they clicked. Colin was quieter but just as kindhearted. We called them Hinge and Bracket. Colin became like an adopted son to me.
“They served in the Falklands in 2014 and off-duty hung out in Nando’s and the pub.
“They laughed and confided in each other and went on their PlayStations just like any other ordinary young lads.”
The pair even bought houses over the road from each other, near Scott’s family home in Middleton, Manchester.
Now Anne, with Colin’s parents Tracey and George, are trying to support the traumatised soldier.
She said: “Tracey is also grieving for the boy she once knew who is gone for ever. He is a broken soul. I’ve never known something so tragic. Colin has gone from a strong soldier to a little boy again who needs looking after. I could never walk away.
“If the roles were reversed I know I wouldn’t want Scott to be suffering as Colin is.
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“I make contact with him every day. I like him coming here for his dinner because he struggles to eat or sleep properly.
“There have been long and emotional outpourings but what’s important is to keep the contact so that Colin knows we are right behind him.
“In some ways it keeps me going to look after Colin — and he is there for me too.”
PA:Press Association The coffin of Lance Corporal Scott Hetherington was carried into All Saints and Martyrs Church in Langley, Greater Manchester
Scott was shot and killed by his best friend Colin Theaker in January 2017
Scott and Colin were in their living quarters when Colin fired his pistol, wounding Scott in the stomach
PA:Press Association Scott was given a funeral with full military honours in his home town three weeks after the shooting
Scott was the first solider to die in Iraq since 2009
PA:Press Association Scott and his regiment were helping to train local forces to fight Islamic State militants
PA:Press Association Scott had previously served in the Falklands and had been deployed to Iraq for six months
PA:Press Association Scott became a dad the October before his deplyoment after his partner Savannah Brown gave birth to daughter Safaya Rose
Anne believes that looking after Colin has kept her going after the loss of Scott
Lance Corporal Colin Theaker (right) pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter by gross negligence at a court martial on Monday
PA:Press Association Colin went on to spend everyday in the funeral parlour with Scott, talking to him and telling him how sorry he was
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