Council chief: 'I knew I had to get the gun away from him'

The man who disarmed submarine gunman after attack that killed one naval officer and left another injured

Royston Smith, the council leader who disarmed a gunman after he shot two people with an assault rifle aboard a nuclear sub, said yesterday that he had acted purely on instinct.

The gunman, a member of HMS Astute's crew, entered the submarine's compact control room during a civic tour on Friday and opened fire with the SA80 rifle. A Royal Navy officer, Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux, was killed, and a second man was seriously injured before Mr Smith, 46, a former RAF engineer, wrestled the gunman to the ground.

The wife of Lt-Cdr Molyneux described the 36-year-old from Wigan as "utterly devoted to his family". Gillian Molyneux said: "Everything he did was for us. He was very proud to be an officer in the Royal Navy Submarine Service. He will live on in our four beautiful children."

Mr Smith told The Independent on Sunday yesterday: "My thoughts were that I just had to disarm him, to get the gun away from him. I heard the hiss of the round flying through the air so I knew it had passed pretty close to me. And it was a confined space; there was nowhere to go so I just had to charge him."

Despite his previous military training, Mr Smith said he has never been in a similar life-or-death situation. "I've been asked lots of times why it was me who went for him and not one of the others, but I don't think they realised what was going on.

"Some were round the corner, and others may have thought it was a demonstration or something, but I knew that the Royal Navy doesn't have people shooting into control rooms, so I knew something was up.

"For all I know he may have had a target. It may have been the man he shot; it may have been us. I don't know. My thoughts go out to the families of those involved."

Police arrested a 22-year-old man in connection with the attack, and have been granted an extension to continue questioning him. Officers have also interviewed 20 witnesses to the shooting. It is believed the gunman was on sentry duty at the time of the attack which happened during a weapons changeover between shifts.

His comrade, Lt-Cdr Chris Hodge, was also shot and remains in hospital where he was said to be in a stable condition.

An MoD spokesman said: "We are co-operating fully with the police investigation and a Royal Navy service investigation will begin in due course."

Southampton Mayor Carol Cunio and chief executive Alistair Neill were among a group of six local dignitaries on board HMS Astute at the time of the shooting.

The Navy's newest and most advanced submarine is still being treated as a crime scene today as Hampshire police special investigations teams inspect the ship. She is docked at Southampton's Eastern Docks on a five-day official visit to the city and was scheduled to host visits by Sea Scouts and school pupils from Southampton and the New Forest.

Despite his heroism on Friday, Mr Smith is a controversial figure in his home city. Many of the comments posted on the local Daily Echo's website offer grudging praise for "our very own Steven Seagal", but in the same breath accuse him of "ruining the city council", referring to massive pay cuts and redundancies faced by Southampton's staff at the end of last year.

HMS Astute also has a controversial history. The nuclear sub previously hit the headlines when she ran aground on a shingle bank last October, between the Scottish mainland and the Isle of Skye, and remained marooned for several hours. The embarrassing incident cost Commander Andy Coles his command. He was replaced by Commander Iain Breckenridge.