GRIEVING families branded Tony Blair “the world’s worst terrorist” yesterday as he continued to defend sending their loved ones to war in Iraq.

Sarah O’Connor, whose brother Sergeant Bob O’Connor died in 2005, said: “There is one terrorist in this world that the world needs to be aware of – and his name is Tony Blair, the world’s worst terrorist.”

She said the publication of the long-delayed Chilcot Report had led her to relive her brother’s death.

She said: “That healing, that 11-and-a-half years I have worked for... I’ve gone back to the time when I learned that my brother had been killed.”

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O’Connor was part of a panel including Rose Gentle, who also lost her 19-year-old son Fusilier Gordon Gentle in Iraq. Gentle, from Glasgow, said: “Today, what we have heard and what we have been reading has been really hard. There is a lot of mothers and fathers that have been in tears today.

“A lot of us have held it back for years. It is really gut-wrenching for a lot of us.”

The families noted that they had been given just 180 minutes – around one for every UK service person killed – to read the report before its release.

The comments came before the former prime minister – who had prior view of the passages of the report which criticised him – issued a 6,800 word statement in a two-hour press conference in which he defended his conduct.

During the session, Blair, who initially appeared tearful, said he could “look the nation in the eye” and say he had not misled them.

He said: “Without exception and without excuse, I recognised the division felt by many people in our country over the war, and in particular I feel deeply and sincerely – in a way that no words can properly convey – the grief and suffering of those who lost ones they loved in Iraq, whether members of our armed forces, the armed forces of other nations, or Iraqis.”

However, lawyer Matthew Jury earlier underlined that legal action against Blair by families of fallen personnel was “a possibility” and a decision would be taken when the 2.6 million word report has been read in full.

Praising the families’ “patience, courage and dignity”, he added: “In the coming days and weeks, the families will undertake a full and forensic review of the report’s content and conclusions.

“If state officials are determined to have acted unlawfully or in excess of their powers then the families will then decide on whether to take any necessary and appropriate action at the proper time. All options will be considered.”

Roger Bacon, whose son Major Matthew Bacon died when a roadside bomb exploded near Basra, said: “Never again must so many mistakes be allowed to sacrifice British lives and lead to the destruction of a country for no positive end.

“We were proud when our husbands, sons and daughters signed up to serve our country. But we cannot be proud of the way our government has treated them.

“We must use this report to make sure that all parts of the Iraq War fiasco are never repeated again. Neither in a theatre of war, nor in the theatre of Whitehall.

“We call on the British government immediately to follow up Sir John’s findings to ensure that the political process by which our country decides to go to war is never again twisted and confused with no liability for such actions.”

After Blair’s statement, Reg Keys, who said his 20-year-old son Lance Corporal Thomas Keys had died in vain, branded Blair a “consummate actor”, calling the lengthy statement the “ramblings of a madman”.