Get my little boy back for Mother’s Day
Marine A’s mum hopes he’ll be released from prison by Sunday
MARINE A’s mother says it would be ‘the best present ever’ if he was released from prison in time for Mother’s Day on Sunday.
Frances Blackman’s son Alexander became the country’s most talked-about Royal Marine when he was jailed for life – on his mother’s 74th birthday – after the most controversial episode of the Afghan war.
Yesterday Mrs Blackman spoke of her tears of joy when her son’s murder conviction was quashed at the Appeal Court last week. On Friday, judges will consider whether Sgt Blackman can be released from HMP Erlestoke in Wiltshire. If he is re-sentenced to seven or fewer years, he could be released immediately on the basis of time served.
His father, Brian Blackman, will not be there. It was his death shortly before the ‘tour of hell’ that contributed to Sgt Blackman’s mental anguish. A traffic jam meant he was unable to reach his father’s bedside before he died, and the Appeal Court heard how he had scattered his ashes during leave in July 2011, two months before he snapped on the battlefield.
Sgt Blackman, 42, has spent three and a half years in prison for shooting and killing a wounded Taliban fighter in Helmand province on September 15, 2011.
Last week, after Daily Mail readers raised £800,000 to fund a new appeal, his murder conviction was downgraded to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. The judges ruled the exemplary commando had been suffering combat trauma brought on by ‘quite exceptional’ stresses, including sleep deprivation, daily Taliban attacks, lack of support from commanders and the recent death of his father’.
Yesterday Mrs Blackman, now 77, told the Mail: ‘It has been a terrible time, but now this year at last I can look forward to Mother’s Day. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed he will get out soon.
‘It has been tough with things like Christmases and birthdays – you just can’t take his presents to prison. I have always hoped and prayed for help, and the marvellous people of Britain came to his aid. They all deserve a medal for helping my son.
‘I want to thank the Daily Mail readers from the bottom of my heart. They realised what Alexander was going through. He was soldiering in a nasty place and doing his best with his men.’ Mrs Blackman added: ‘He might be 6ft 3in but he is still my little boy. Alexander would always give me a cuddle. He was always affectionate. When he got his first job, he said he was going to pay for everything from then on. He was a lovely boy.’
Mrs Blackman, of Brighton, said that when she heard the news of her son’s conviction being quashed: ‘I was crying. Tears were streaming down my face. I’ve shed quite a few tears the past few years but these were tears of joy.’
She said her son was treating prison ‘just like another tour – just this time he’s not getting shot at’, adding that he had been teaching other prisoners English and maths, working in the prison library and studying for a degree. She revealed he had struggled with the tragedy of how a traffic jam stopped him being there when his father died. Brian Blackman had also served his country, in the Royal Horse Artillery, where he drove artillery vehicles. Mrs Blackman said: ‘Brian was so proud when Alexander went up in rank [to sergeant]. It would have broken Brian’s heart to know what happened. ‘Alexander really struggled with his dad’s death. He was stuck in the traffic after there was an accident and he couldn’t get to the hospital in time to see him. It always ate him up.’ Mrs Blackman said of her daughter-in-law, Claire, who led the campaign to get Sgt Blackman released: ‘Claire deserves a medal. It can be hard for a mum to give up her boy to another woman, but when you see what Claire has done for him, you can’t have any doubt how much she loves him.’ Mrs Blackman has seen the grim video footage of her son taking a man’s life, and said: ‘I was shocked that he did what he did. But I firmly believe he felt he was looking after his troops. He promised the mums of the other Marines that he would look after their sons. ‘It’s life and death. Every time they went out on patrol they didn’t know if they were going to be blown to pieces. You are living on your nerves. Alexander would have put himself in danger rather than anyone else.’
‘I was crying tears of joy’
Proud parents: Sgt Blackman, aged 1 , flanked by Frances and Brian
Proud Marine: Alexander Blackman, 24