Prime Minister denies grieving father ‘closure’

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A GRIEVING Bury St Edmunds father seeking closure over his son’s death has had his request to visit Afghanistan refused by the Prime Minister.

Keith Southgate’s son, Senior Aircraftman Luke Southgate, was killed in an explosion near Kandahar Airfield while serving with 2 Squadron RAF Regiment in February last year.

The former County Upper School pupil, from St Olaves Road, on Bury’s Howard Estate, was killed just two weeks before his 21st birthday.

Since then, Keith has had his request to visit the base in Kandahar turned down by the Ministry of Defence and now, in response to a desperate personal plea, by David Cameron himself.

“I don’t want to go where he died, I know that’s impossible, I just want to go to Kandahar, where Luke lived and spent the last five weeks of his life – I want to get some closure,” said Keith.

He added: “If you lose someone in this country you can always go to that site to visit, but we haven’t got that opportunity.”

The proud father, who had hoped to visit a road and a forward operating base in Kandahar that have been named after Luke, had his request denied due to the area’s dangerous status as a war zone.

He was told his visit would require the use of security personnel and would set a precedent for the families of other service people killed in action.

But the fact that the Canadian government has regularly flown next-of-kin to Kandahar, and that visits have previously been organised for celebrities like Cheryl Cole and David Beckham, has added to Keith’s frustration.

“What’s good for one should be good for another,” he said. “As a family we haven’t asked for a lot at all, and we don’t wish to, that was our one request.”

Keith, 51, said he had not given up hope of reaching Kandahar and will seek advice from charities including the Red Cross and Help For Heroes.