Army 'should learn from' accidental shooting of soldier Michael Pritchard, says father

 

The father of a young soldier who was accidentally shot dead by a
comrade while on active service in Afghanistan called today for lessons
to be learned from the tragedy.

Lance Corporal Michael Pritchard, 22, was killed by gunfire from a remote observation post fired by a sniper who thought he was shooting at Taliban insurgents, an inquest was told.

L/Cpl Pritchard, who was on secondment with 4th Battalion The Rifles, was deployed to the observation post N30 on December 20 2009 to watch a blind spot on an access road, Route 611, in the Sangin area, central Helmand province, to make sure insurgents did not plant improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the road, the inquest was told.

The sniper, Lance Corporal Malcolm Graham, of The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion, arrived at the remote sangar after being told he was needed to fire an accurate shot at the insurgents, the hearing at Eastbourne Town Hall heard.

But he was not aware of the correct position of N30 and he was not told about the restricted firing line nearby despite asking if there were any British soldiers in the area.

He told the inquest he "had absolutely no doubt, 110% in my mind I was shooting at insurgents the whole time".

East Sussex Coroner Alan Craze recorded a verdict of accidental death and said a number of factors including poor communication had played a part but that the basic reason for the tragedy was the failure of the those running the operation to prevent 'blue on blue' contact.

Speaking outside court, L/Cpl Pritchard's father Gary said: "We hope and trust that the Army will take steps to ensure that this does not happen again."

He thanked the soldiers who had helped the coroner by giving evidence and said: "This was very tough because they were reliving a terrible event and they did the best to tell the coroner what happened.

"I am especially indebted to all those soldiers who were with Michael and tried to help him.

"We hope and trust that the Army ensure that they take steps to make sure this does not happen again."

Helen Perry, L/Cpl Pritchard's mother, said the last time she had spoken to her son she could hear the fear in his voice.

She said: "While Michael was employed in Afghanistan we kept in regular contact through telephone and emails and he tried to remain his upbeat self.

"During the week before he died he phoned three times and I could sense the fear in his voice.

"He said: 'I am moving mum. The communications will be bad and I will not be able to call you for a while'. Little did I know that would be the last time I would hear from him."

She said his death had been avoidable but that it had been caused by "speculation and assumption".

She said: "Nobody in command took any action to rectify the situation and subsequently nobody has taken any responsibility for Michael's death. He has received no apology."

Mr Craze said that despite erroneous decisions being made L/Cpl Pritchard's death was an accident, albeit an avoidable one.

He said an inadequate briefings system and lack of understanding about where the restricted firing line was had exacerbated the situation.

He said: "There was an overriding sense that they had arrived in a hornets' nest in a war zone and that they had to win.

"So although there was no gung-ho or snap happy attitude they were there to engage insurgents."

Lieutenant Colonel Nadine Parks, Commanding Officer, 4th Regiment Royal Military Police, said: "L/Cpl Pritchard was a brave and professional soldier whose tragic death deprived the Royal Military Police of a promising young junior non-commissioned officer and loyal friend.

"He made a huge impact on our regiment in the short time he served with us, and his loss has been felt most keenly by those who worked alongside him."

An Army spokeswoman said lessons had been learned and changes made to the standard operating procedures used by soldiers on operations in Afghanistan.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
music
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own