'Intelligence lessons to be learned' from soldier's death

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The Independent Online

A coroner investigating the death of a soldier in Afghanistan said today there were "lessons to be learned" about intelligence-sharing among troops on the ground.

Coroner Rob Turnbull told the inquest at Richmond Town Hall, North Yorkshire, that information concerning the compound in which Serjeant Phillip Scott, 30, of 3rd Battalion The Rifles, was killed by an explosion may have been of assistance before his platoon entered it.

Sjt Scott was killed by an improvised explosive device near Sangin in Helmand Province on November 5 last year.

He left behind his widow, Ellen, who was present at the inquest, and young children, Ellie and Michael.

His parents, Mike Scott and Diane Carr, were also at Richmond Town Hall today.

On the day of his death, Sjt Scott was acting as Section Commander of section two of his platoon, which had split into three parts, with orders to find and identify suitable compounds for future use.

It was in one of these compounds, which had been swept by four metal detectors, that the explosion happened.

It later emerged that members of 2 Rifles had been in the area on a previous occasion and had experienced a similar incident but the information had not been circulated.

Mr Turnbull's comments came in response to evidence heard from Serjeant Lee Slater, Section Commander, Recce Platoon, 3rd Battalion The Rifles, who was asked by Sjt Scott's father if he had been concerned by blood stains inside the compound and a tail fin from a mortar.

Sjt Slater told the hearing: "I did not see the blood on the walls.

"There was a field dressing wrapper - it's like a crisp wrapper - but there was no evidence that someone had been hurt in there."

Captain Toby Hood, Recce 2 Commander, 3rd Battalion The Rifles, told the inquest that they were not unduly worried by their findings as there were often frequent discoveries of the "detritus of war".

Recording a verdict of unlawful killing, Mr Turnbull said he was satisfied that the operation was "well run, well led and well equipped" and that all the troops involved could not have acted more properly.

He added: "I do, however, note the fact that there was within the compound certain items - a field dressing, part of a tail fin from a mortar - which may have been, and I emphasis may have been, a cause for concern.

"It's a point of note that there had been a previous incident, it emerged, in this compound and that information about that may have been of assistance to those carrying out this operation on the 5th of November."

He also agreed to a request from Mr Scott to put a letter together regarding the necessity of information sharing.

Mr Turnbull added: "There may be lessons to be learned, sadly too late for Serjeant Scott, but for other people in future."

Earlier, Cpt Hood described the movements of the platoon on the day of Sjt Scott's death.

He told the hearing that when the platoon reached the compound, section one entered first, swept the entirety of it with metal detectors and then ordered section two in, who did the same.

He was standing on a staircase, which at least half the men inside the compound had travelled up or down, and talking to Sjt Scott when the explosion happened.

Cpt Hood told the inquest: "Mid-conversation there was an explosion and I found myself in a heap at the foot of the stairs.

"My initial fear was that there had been an explosion on the roof. Due to the number of people on the roof I feared, initially, that there may have been many casualties if the roof had collapsed in the rooms underneath."

He also said that medics gave Sjt Scott immediate attention before he was taken by helicopter to Camp Bastion hospital.

Mr Turnbull told the inquest that a post-mortem exam found Sjt Scott died as a result of blast injuries caused by an explosion.

Cpt Hood was asked by Mr Scott what might have caused the explosion, to which he replied: "I'm not an expert in IEDs but it seems consistent perhaps with low-level content that if four vallons [metal detectors] could not pick it up then it's something as a platoon that we aren't equipped to detect."