REG KEYS was catapulted into the media spotlight when his son – Lance Corporal Tom Keys – was gunned down and murdered by an Iraqi mob in 2003.
He has taken his fight for answers over why former Arden School pupil Tom and his fellow soldiers were sent, unarmed and with no radio communication, into a hostile Iraqi environment right to the very top.
He even stood against Tony Blair in the 2005 General Election in a bid to raise the profile of his campaign for the truth – and for an apology from the then Prime Minister.
His fight has been turned into a BBC One drama documentary which aired this week – with Hollywood star Tim Roth playing the main role of the former Paramedic, who now lives in Hollywood himself – Hollywood just outside Solihull.
The drama – simply entitled Reg – was created by award-winning television writer Jimmy McGovern and aired on BBC One on Monday night, but is available on the BBC iPlayer.
The 90-minute drama also starred Becoming Jane and Death Comes to Pemberley actrss Anna Maxwell Martin as Reg’s late wife Sally, who died in December 2011 after a long illness and battle with alcohol, described by Reg as her ‘losing her will to live after Tom was murdered’.
Mr Keys, who has re-found his happiness with his new wife Jenny, had already seen the final edit of the drama a few times before it was aired.
But speaking to Observer editor Chris Willmott on Tuesday, he said it was very different – surreal in fact – watching it at home with his family.
“Every time I watch it I am catapulted back in time and the pain is so very real,” said Reg.
“The scene where I opened up Tom’s coffin to see my boy and what they had done to him, to shake his hand one last time and to dress him proudly in his army clothes – that is heartbreaking every time I see it.
“But not as difficult as it was at the time – it was such a difficult thing to do – but I had to do it, I had to see him and I had to do him proud.
“That moment and that experience will be with me forever and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
As well as Reg’s fight for justice for his son, the drama also tells the tragic tale of his late wife’s death – and Mr Keys is full of praise for both the show’s main actors.
“They did an amazing job and portrayed our suffering and emotions perfectly – maybe with just a hint of a too heavy Birmingham accent!” added Reg, who had spent time with Tim Roth during filming to allow him to study his mannerisms, voice and understand exactly what he went through.
“Anna Maxwell-Martin is so much like Sally – in looks and the look of anguish on her face.”
Reg has received hundreds of texts, calls and e-mails about the drama, which even set a new record for the BBC as the first drama to have the News at Ten put back by half an hour.
- Reg follows the true story of Reg Keys on a journey of grief and defiance after his son Tom Keys is one of six RMPs murdered in Al Majar, Iraq.
As Reg and his wife Sally have their lives torn apart, questions begin to arise not only around the events that led to their son’s death but also the legitimacy of the war as a whole.
Left with questions that the New Labour government and Prime Minister Tony Blair refuse to answer, Reg decides to stand as an independent candidate in Blair’s own constituency of Sedgefield.