Grieving family of Sunderland dad killed in Iraq say life is ‘like Groundhog Day’ as they wait for justice

Phil Harris from Red House who was shot and killed in Iraq in August 2014

Phil Harris from Red House who was shot and killed in Iraq in August 2014

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The family of a decorated former marine shot dead while working in Iraq say they have endured 12 months of heartache trying to find out how he died.

Dad-of-two Phillip Harris, 37, from Red House in Sunderland, was killed after being gunned down in a villa in the city of Erbil a year ago today.

Former marine Phillip Harris, who was killed aged 38 in Iraq in August 2014

Former marine Phillip Harris, who was killed aged 38 in Iraq in August 2014

A man was arrested on suspicion of the attack, which happened after Phillip had been on a night out, and remains on police bail.

However, the popular marine’s devastated family say they have not been told of any progress with the case, adding to their grief.

“It gets harder every day,” said his tearful mum Ellen Miller, 60, also mum to his sisters Deborah Knox, 42, and Mandy Smillie, 40.

“There haven’t been any developments in Iraq, it’s a slow process, so we’re just waiting to hear.
It’s Groundhog Day for us.

He was such a big part of our lives and always will be.

Ellen Miller, mum of Phil Harris

“But it will be like this for the rest of our lives regardless of whether someone is convicted of killing Phillip.

“He was such a big part of our lives and always will be.”

Mr Harris signed up to serve in the marines almost immediately after leaving school.

Following tours in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan among others, he decided to leave the forces in 2004 and move into private security work, which he was doing at the time of his death.

The Phil Harris Memorial Shield which is awarded to the best boxer at Wearmouth Boxing Club in memory of the former marine

The Phil Harris Memorial Shield which is awarded to the best boxer at Wearmouth Boxing Club in memory of the former marine

So popular was Mr Harris that brothers Joe and Steve Donkin, who were friends of his, have created the Phil Harris Memorial Shield, which will be awarded to the best boxer at Wearmouth Boxing Club which they run at Fitness 2000 in Roker.

“Wherever he was in the world, he would call us almost every day,” said Ellen.

“One lad who knew him said he was like a rabbit in the headlights when he first went out to Iraq but Phillip took him under his wing.”

The family also say they have been caused further heartache by not being able to get a headstone in place at Phillip’s grave in Mere Knolls Cemetery, in Seaburn, because they do not own the deeds to the grave.

The funeral of former Royal Marine, Phil Harris, which was held at St Andrew's Church in Roker.

The funeral of former Royal Marine, Phil Harris, which was held at St Andrew's Church in Roker.

“We need to put him to rest properly by putting in a headstone,” added Ellen.

“We’ve got the money to pay for it, that isn’t the problem, but we don’t have the deeds to be able to do it.

“It’s the least Phillip deserves.”

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said: “We continue to provide consular assistance to his family at what we know will be a very difficult time.”