Sol­dier heard gun­fire close up

Western Mail - - NEWS -

A SOL­DIER has de­scribed hear­ing the crack of gun­fire and a round whizzing past his head mo­ments be­fore an­other sol­dier was shot dead dur­ing a train­ing ex­er­cise.

Lance Cor­po­ral Matthew Li­nacre told a court mar­tial that other sol­diers nearby said “f*** that was close” be­fore re­al­is­ing that Ranger Michael Maguire had been fa­tally shot in the head.

The sol­diers, who were mem­bers of the 1st Bat­tal­ion, Royal Ir­ish Reg­i­ment, were tak­ing part in an ex­er­cise at the Castle­martin Train­ing Area in Pembrokeshire in May 2012. Rgr Maguire, 21, from County Cork, Ire­land, was shot in the fore­head by a round fired from a GPMG ma­chine gun.

Cpl Li­nacre said he and other sol­diers, in­clud­ing Rgr Maguire, were in a rest area get­ting their kit to­gether to leave when he heard a shot ring out.

“There was a dis­tinc­tive crack and round go­ing past my head,” he told the court.

“They were com­ment­ing on how close it was. A few were like ‘f*** that was close’.”

He told the court an­other nearby sol­dier said: “F*** he’s been shot in the head.”

Cpl Li­nacre said he turned around and saw the sol­dier ly­ing on the floor with a wound to his head, while oth­ers shouted: “Man down.” “More rounds came over. Sgt Pankhurst said to take cover be­hind the ve­hi­cles,” Cpl Li­nacre said.

Two of­fi­cers and a sergeant are fac­ing court mar­tial in Bul­ford, Wilt­shire, in con­nec­tion with the sol­dier’s death.

Cap­tain Jonathan Price, 32, now of the 2nd Bat­tal­ion, Royal Ir­ish, is ac­cused of the man­slaugh­ter by gross neg­li­gence of Rgr Maguire through his fail­ure to set up and su­per­vise a safe ex­er­cise. The pros­e­cu­tion al­lege he failed to at­tend a recce of the range when pre­par­ing a Range Ac­tion Safety Plan (Rasp), that he placed tar­gets too close to­gether and he failed to “de­con­flict” the two ex­er­cises.

Lieu­tenant Colonel Richard Bell, 45, and War­rant Of­fi­cer Stuart Pankhurst, 40, are both ac­cused of neg­li­gently per­form­ing a duty.

Lt Col Bell, the se­nior plan­ning of­fi­cer, is ac­cused of fail­ing to review or counter-sign the Rasp pro­duced by Capt Price and fail­ing to su­per­vise or sup­port him.

Staff Sgt Pankhurst, who was su­per­vis­ing the ex­er­cise in­volv­ing Rgr Maguire in area 10A, is ac­cused of fail­ing to “ex­press any cau­tion or con­cern” de­spite hav­ing at­tended the recce and hav­ing knowl­edge of the ex­tent of the ad­ja­cent shoot­ing in area 10B.

All three de­fen­dants deny the charges and the trial be­fore a board of seven se­nior of­fi­cers con­tin­ues.

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