THE family of a former marine who was shot and killed in Iraq will today celebrate what would have been his 38th birthday, still searching for answers as to why he died.
Ex-serviceman Phillip Harris, from Red House in Sunderland, died in August while working for a private security firm.
The dad-of-two is believed to have walked into the wrong villa in the war-torn city of Erbil after an evening out.
A man remains on bail over the shooting and an inquest date for Phillip’s death has been set for this coming April.
As they commemorate what would have been Phillip’s 38th birthday, his mum Ellen Miller told the Echo: “We’re still devastated and have no more details about how Phillip died.
“There are times when I just don’t know what I’m thinking.”
It was on August 20 that Phillip was shot after he spent the evening out. He was pronounced dead the next day.
“I’m still walking about in a daze because we don’t know what happened,” said Ellen, 60, who is also mum to Phillip’s sisters Deborah Knox, 42, and Mandy Smillie, 39.
“I just want justice and to do that we need to get to the bottom of the investigations.
“We want to know the exact circumstances, the path or routes he took that night and where he ended up.
“We were told he died on the 21st of August, but that was when he was pronounced dead, so did he actually die on the 20th?”
Decorated marine Phillip signed up to serve almost immediately after leaving school.
After tours in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan among others, he left the Forces in 2004 and the next year went into security work.
Phillip’s daughter, Bobi-Jo, who he had with ex-wife Sandra, celebrated her 13th birthday on Christmas Day. They also had a son Leon, 11.
Ellen, who has only just felt strong enough to visit her son’s grave in Mere Knolls Cemetery, added: “He adored his children and they absolutely loved him. “We really feel for them.
“If he was away working, Phillip called home every Christmas and New Year, but none of us got that this year. Things will never be the same.”
The family, along with friends of Phillip are today meeting at Ellen’s house to celebrate what would’ve been the former Red House Comprehensive School pupil’s 38th birthday.
“All of us have taken it badly, so we’re having a have a toast to Phillip,” added Ellen.
“I can still feel his presence here in the house with me and I don’t think that will ever go away.”
An inquest into Phillip’s death has been set for Friday, April 10, next year, although that could change depending on what happens with any legal case in Iraq.
A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said: “We were informed of the death of a British national, Phillip Harris, in Erbil, on August 21.
“We are providing consular assistance to the family at this difficult time.”