'Catalogue of errors' led to fatal shooting of teenage Marine

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The Independent Online

A teenage Royal Marine was shot dead when live ammunition was mixed up with blank rounds because of a "catalogue of errors" during a training exercise, an inquest was told yesterday.

Wayne Richards, 17, died after being hit by two live rounds during Exercise Hunter's Moon, close to the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre in Devon.

The recruit, from Cwmavon, south Wales, died on 31 March last year when his 780 Troop, with 29 men, was attacked by members of their training team in a mock raid. But live rounds, as well as blanks, were fired during the exercise, and Mr Richards died from head and chest wounds at the scene.

The inquest, held in Exeter with a jury of ten, heard that two red-painted magazines of live rounds were carried by a sentry. Safety procedures said the live and blank rounds should not be carried together.

Corporal Jeremy Densham, a member of the troop training team, agreed with Ray Lewis, acting for the family of Mr Richards, that there appeared to be a "catalogue of errors" on the exercise. Cpl Densham described how Captain Gareth Pearson called a halt to the mock attack because there had been an accident, and called for a head count. He said Cpl Dave Masland, who had been the armed sentry on the exercise, asked him to count his section ­ and Mr Richards was found lying on his back with blood coming from his helmet.

Cpl Densham said he had seen the live weapon, with the live magazine attached, which was against orders, next to Cpl Masland's bed in the team tent. He said he did not see Corporal Masland wearing an orange arm band denoting he was an armed sentry. Another trainer, Cpl Simon Lightfoot, said Cpl Masland appeared to be in shock, and when told what had happened to the recruit, said: "Oh, God." The hearing was adjourned until Wednesday.