Sailor jailed for submarine murder
Monday 19 September 2011
A sailor who murdered an officer on board a nuclear submarine was jailed for a minimum 25 years today.
Able Seaman Ryan Samuel Donovan, 23, admitted murdering father-of-four Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux, 36, with an SA80 rifle while HMS Astute was docked in Southampton on April 8.
Donovan fired the gun six times in the control room of the sub, aiming at four named victims and killing weapons engineer officer Lt Cdr Molyneux.
Appearing at Winchester Crown Court, he also admitted the attempted murders of Petty Officer Christopher Brown, 36, Chief Petty Officer David McCoy, 37, and Lieutenant Commander Christopher Hodge, 45, during a goodwill visit to Southampton.
Mr Justice Field called the shootings a "murderous onslaught".
He said it had been a "miracle" he had not killed the two petty officers, which he had intended to do before Lt Cdr Molyneux came from the control room to investigate.
"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."
The consequences for his wife Gillian and his four children are immeasurable.
"I have read the victim impact statement - the loss will be crushingly hard to bear.
"Your murderous onslaught was only brought to an end by the intervention of two civilians.
"There is no doubt their intervention prevented further deaths and serious injury."
He described the offences as "premeditated, planned and an outrageous breach of trust".
But he gave Donovan, of Hillside Road, Dartford, Kent, credit for his early plea, age and remorse.
Prosecutor Nigel Lickley QC told the court the death toll could have been higher but for the bravery of Southampton council leader Royston Smith and chief executive Alistair Neill.
The judge said it had been a "miracle" he had not killed the two petty officers, which he had intended to do before Lt Cdr Molyneux came from the control room to investigate.
Opening the case, Mr Lickley said Donovan had volunteered for guard duty after being extremely drunk at 3am that morning.
He said Donovan had been found without his shirt in a hotel corridor and had to be put to bed by a colleague.
He was issued with the SA80 in a corridor after passing a test - which involved having his breath smelled by Petty Officer Brown - to see if he was sober.
The barrister said Donovan fired four shots at the two petty officers from ten 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.
"That was shot five. The defendant stepped over the body of Lt Cdr Molyneux and continued his progress towards the control room."
Donovan entered the control room where Lt Cdr Hodge was shot through the body and seriously injured.
"The defendant was then wrestled to the ground by the leader of Southampton City Council Royston Smith and the council chief executive Alistair Neill and prevented from killing anyone else.
"There can be no doubt they displayed remarkable courage that day - acting against an armed man.
"We will not know how many more he would have killed if he had not stopped."
The shootings took place as local dignitaries were being given a tour of the submarine while it was berthed at the Eastern Docks on a five-day official visit to the city.
In mitigation, Christopher Parker QC said: "His behaviour shortly after midday on April 8 is so far outside the norm it was barely conceivable.
"He literally ran amok and over the period of eight seconds in the control room of HMS Astute caused damage that is, in his rational state of mind, inconceivable.
"This was an angry mind quite out of kilter. He saw no way out of a dire situation."
Mr Parker said Donovan was immature but he took sole responsibility and the Royal Navy, or any other organisation, was not to blame.
He also told the court that Donovan was not mentally ill.
Speaking outside court, Mrs Molyneux said: "Nothing can ever replace Ian - my husband and soulmate and the father of our four beautiful children.
"There is no pleasure or relief for me today - only the ongoing, heartbreaking sadness for the loss of Ian.
"I find huge comfort in the abundance of love and support I have received from my family, many friends, Ian's colleagues in the Royal Navy.
"I will now try to rebuild my life with my gorgeous children and the eternal memory of Ian - my hero and true love.
"To Jamie, Arron, Bethany and Charlie - your Daddy and I love you very much and our future will always be guided by him."
Nick Hawkins, Chief Crown Prosecutor of CPS Wessex, said: "This was a shocking and unprecedented event where an Able Seaman shot dead an officer, wounded another and shot at two more of his colleagues in the presence not only of naval staff but also civilian visitors on board HMS Astute.
"A group of school children who had only just left after their visit were waiting on the jetty and heard the gunshots.
"By pleading guilty Ryan Donovan has taken criminal responsibility for his actions and, with this conviction, the family of Lieutenant Commander Molyneux and the other victims and their families will not have to relive these painful moments throughout a trial."
He added: "Donovan was in possession of an SA80 rifle and 30 rounds of live ammunition in the course of his duties as a sentry.
"He used this gun to shoot firstly at Chief Petty Officer McCoy and Petty Officer Brown, fortunately he missed them both and they were unhurt. He then shot Lt Cmdr Molyneux once in the head, who died as a result of the wound received.
"He finally shot Lt Cmdr Hodge once in the abdomen, causing him serious injuries. Donovan was wrestled to the ground by two civilians, who acted heroically without regard to their own safety, and he was restrained and disarmed. During the struggle a seventh bullet was discharged.
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