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.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried