Royal Navy sailor jailed for life for killing officer on submarine

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A Royal Navy crewman who shot dead an officer during a gun spree on a nuclear submarine was yesterday jailed for life.

Able Seaman Ryan Donovan, 23, admitted murdering Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux, 36, with an SA80 rifle in the control room of HMS Astute while it was docked in Southampton on 8 April this year.

The sailor, from Dartford, Kent, also confessed to the attempted murders of Petty Officer Christopher Brown, 36, Chief Petty Officer David McCoy, 37, and Lieutenant Commander Christopher Hodge, 45.

The rampage took place minutes after a group of local schoolchildren finished a tour of the vessel, which had docked for a goodwill visit to the city. They were standing on the jetty when the sound of gunfire filled the air.

Donovan, who was put on sentry duty despite being drunk, fired six shots from the automatic rifle as local dignitaries, including Southampton City Council's mayor, were being given a tour of the sub, the court heard.

He was only stopped thanks to the heroics of council leader Royston Smith and chief executive Alistair Neill who wrestled him to the ground before prizing the gun from his grasp.

Describing the shootings as a "murderous onslaught", Mr Justice Field said the self-styled hip-hop rapper would serve at least 25 years in prison.

"You backed away and, undeterred by the danger confronting him, Lt Cdr Molyneux moved forward to apprehend you and you shot him in the side of his head," the judge said. "In killing that officer, you robbed him of a bright future within a loving family."

Earlier, Nigel Lickley QC, prosecuting, told Winchester Crown Court that Donovan had volunteered for guard duty while drunk but was issued with the SA80 in a corridor after passing a test to see if he was sober.

The barrister said Donovan fired four shots at the two petty officers from 10 feet away. They were not hit.

"Lt Cdr Molyneux reacted to the noise of the shots. As he turned to tackle the defendant he was shot in the head at very close range and died instantly," the barrister explained. "The defendant stepped over the body of Lt Cdr Molyneux and continued his progress towards the control room."

Donovan, described in court as "immature and moody", entered the control room, where Lt Cdr Hodge was shot through the body and seriously injured.

The court heard how Donovan harboured resentment after being told he would not be allowed to join the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Cardigan Bay because he had disobeyed orders to clean part of the submarine.

However, Mr Lickley claimed he had planned the shooting much earlier, recounting a conversation with a colleague a year before in which Donovan said he was trying to "create a massacre in the control".

Donovan called himself Reggie Moondog and used to make rap music and boasted that he would be famous. One of his lyrics went: "Tell the quartermaster. I caused disaster. SA80 - more palaver. It's another bollocking off the navigator."