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Inquest jury says soldier Mike Maguire was unlawfully killed in shooting at live-fire range


A soldier shot in the head in a safe haven at an Army live-fire shooting range was unlawfully killed, an inquest jury found today.

Michael “Mike” Maguire, 21, was hit in the temple by a single machine gun bullet fired by a fellow soldier during a training exercise.

Ranger Maguire was relaxing at a secure location just outside a training range at the Castlemartin Ranges, in Pembrokeshire, in May last year.

An inquest jury in Cardiff heard evidence about the tragic killing after sitting for more than two weeks.

The fatal bullet was fired one kilometre (0.6 miles) away inland towards another group of recruits on a live fire exercise. All live fire should have been safely aimed out to sea.

The family of ranger Maguire, who was originally from County Cork, Ireland, were present at the inquest throughout and welcomed the outcome today.

Michael Maguire senior listened in silence as the inquest verdict was read out today.

Jimmy Maguire, the ranger's older brother, said the inquest had been an "emotional ordeal" for the family.

He said that despite the outcome there were still unanswered questions.

The verdict leaves a question mark over the ability of the officer who planned and oversaw the shooting exercises.

Lieutenant Jonathan Price, the range conducting officer, passed the training course which allowed him to take charge of the exercises on the day.

But the inquest heard that course tutors, just nine months before, recommended that he receive extra supervision due to perceived weaknesses in his understanding of the course.

He went on to make a series of mistakes in the planning and carrying out of the live fire exercises.

"We note the verdict that the jury has reached, which reflects the very serious failings of the range conducting officer in the planning, setting up and conducting of this training exercise," Mr Maguire said.

"The inquest heard that he was a competent person, qualified to conduct this exercise.

"We are surprised and puzzled how somebody could have been considered competent to conduct an exercise of this nature when at the same time he made so many fundamental errors, and how this could not have been picked up through the chain of command and at the range.

"We are left wondering how someone with such limited experience could have been put in charge of the training exercise and the range with no senior officer present and without appropriate supervision."

Ranger Maguire was a member of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment.

He had already spent one tour of duty in Afghanistan and was at the start of a series of low-level training exercises as part of the build-up to a second tour.

He was standing without a protective helmet and armour in a designated safe area when he was hit in the head by a machine gun bullet.

He was urgently airlifted to hospital in Cardiff where he was pronounced dead within 30 minutes of his arrival.

His family paid tribute to him in a statement read out after the verdict today.

"Mike was a dearly loved son and brother, and he is much missed by us, his family, and everyone who knew him.

"Our mother was sadly unable to be present at the inquest due to illness.

"We are pleased the inquest heard that Mike was a very well- liked member of his battalion, who served in difficult conditions in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. It makes it all the more ironic that he should lose his life on a training exercise in Wales."

Mr Maguire said: "The inquest has been an emotional ordeal for us, but we thank the coroner and the jury for their thorough investigation in to Mike's death.

"However, we are disappointed that key personnel involved decided to rely on their right not to answer questions which were potentially self-incriminating rather than gave the inquest a full and true account of what happened.

"That has left us with unanswered questions, in particular about the actions of the people responsible for the planning of and safety on the exercise that caused Mike's death."

He added that the family hoped that other ongoing investigations would fill in outstanding gaps in the evidence.

A Health and Safety investigation and an Army Special Investigation Branch inquiry are both still looking into Ranger Maguire's death.

Mr Maguire went on: "We know that nothing can bring Mike back: our primary concern throughout this process, therefore, has been that nothing like this ever happens again.

"Soldiers should not be killed in training and we hope that lessons are learned Army-wide to ensure that another incident like this does not occur."

Ranger Maguire's tragic death ensured the deadly training exercise was stopped immediately.

But the inquest jury listened to evidence that suggested that his death could potentially have been just one among many.

Live machine gun fire wrongly directed inland towards the safe haven where ranger Maguire was relaxing was also directed up the coast towards a pleasure beach.

Freshwater West Beach, outside Tenby, is known as a "surfers' paradise" and, at 2.5kms away (1,56 miles), fell within the maximum 2.9km (1.8 miles) range of the machine gun.

Live fire was mistakenly directed at the beach and could potentially have hit civilians.