Officer killed in shooting on board nuclear submarine

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The Independent Online

A Royal Navy officer was killed and another seriously injured after a shooting on board Britain's newest nuclear-powered submarine yesterday.

The shooting happened while HMS Astute was docked at Southampton on a five-day goodwill visit. Local dignitaries, including Mayor Carol Cunio, were on board for an official visit.

The officer was killed when an able seaman about to take up sentry duty fired on him with an SA80 rifle after an argument during a changeover of sailors guarding the vessel, injuring another officer in the process.

Ministry of Defence Police tackled the gunman to the ground before handing him over to Hampshire Constabulary yesterday afternoon. One of the submariners was taken to Southampton General Hospital with life-threatening injuries. The other died at the scene.

Southampton City Council's leader, Royston Smith, later described how he helped wrestle the gunman to the ground in the submarine's control room.

"I ran towards him, I pushed him against the wall, we wrestled to take the gun from him," he told the BBC. "He fired again, I wrestled again to get the weapon from him. I pushed him to another wall, I wrestled him to the ground and managed to take the weapon away from him then others came to help to restrain him."

Police were notified of the shooting shortly after noon, with armed police, firefighters, paramedics and an air ambulance attending the dockside scene.

A spokesman for Southampton City Council said Mayor Cunio, along with Mr Smith and the council's chief executive, Alistair Neill, were unharmed but had been through a "traumatic experience".

HMS Astute, the first of a fleet of six due to replace the Trafalgar class submarine, has a crew of 98 but it is thought around 30 people were on board at the time. An MoD spokesman confirmed last night: "Two Royal Navy personnel have been involved in a firearms incident at Southampton docks where HMS Astute is alongside. Sadly, one has now died as a result of his injuries.

"A third Royal Navy serviceman has been arrested by Hampshire Constabulary and is now in custody. This incident was not terrorist-related and there is no threat to the wider public. We are co-operating fully with the police investigation and a Royal Navy service investigation will begin in due course."

It is the latest incident to plague the £1.2bn submarine, which was launched last year as the most advanced and sophisticated vessel of its kind – only to run aground during sea trials off the Isle of Skye. That led to its captain, Andy Coles, being relieved of his command. The 7,800-tonne sub has Spearfish torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles capable of delivering strikes from 1,240 miles. It also has a nuclear reactor which means it will not need refuelling during its 25-year life and it makes its own air and water, enabling it to circumnavigate the globe without needing to surface.

A visitor, Jan Brunning, said: "It's a very unlucky sub. One could say cursed."