Royal Marine, 17, is shot dead in training accident

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The Independent Online

A Royal Marines recruit was shot dead yesterday in what a senior officer described as a "tragic accident" during a routine training exercise.

Wayne Richards, who was from the RM Commando Training Centre at Lympstone, had celebrated his 17th birthday last month.

A police investigation has now been launched into the incident on Woodbury Common, near Exeter, Devon, an area regularly used for training.

The teenager, from Port Talbot, South Wales, was in week nine of a gruelling 30-week training cycle, at the end of which successful recruits are awarded the green beret.

The incident happened at about 5.35am. The scene was immediately sealed off and was being inspected by scenes of crime officers and Royal Marinea personnel.

Chief Superintendent Liam McGrath said a "detailed" police inquiry was under way. "All individuals involved are engaged in our inquiries," he said.

Chief Supt McGrath said he was not able to give details of how the shooting happened as it was the subject of inquiry.

He said live ammunition was carried by Royal Marines against terrorist threat but agreed it was unusual to have live ammunition discharged on Woodbury Common.

And he was unable to say whether the weapon involved was a rifle or handgun.

"All I can say is it was a weapon which is normally in use during a training exercise up here on Woodbury by the Royal Marines."

He was also unable to say whether the fatal round was fired by the victim or by someone else. Other Royal Marines recruits involved in the training exercise were said to be "deeply shocked" by the death. They were taken back to the riverside Lympstone camp.

Second in command of training at the CTC, Lieutenant- Colonel Adam Mallalieu, said at the scene: "This is a very tragic accident.

"We have a duty of care to the people left behind at Lympstone. We'll counsel them, look after their welfare, then we will get on with training."

It is the fifth death involving Royal Marines from the Lympstone Camp since 1996 and is likely to raise further questions about the safety of recruits during training exercises.

In October, 1998, 16-year-old recruit Nathaniel Burton, from Devon, died while crossing a pool on Dartmoor during a military exercise.

And in January, 1998, 18-year-old recruit David Vallance collapsed and then died of a heart attack while jogging to a firing range at Sandy Bay, near Exmouth, during an exercise.