Tuesday 19 March 2019

'F**k that was close' - witness on bullets flying overhead at army range where Irish soldier died

Ranger Michael Maguire from Cork, who was shot dead during live-fire training
Ranger Michael Maguire from Cork, who was shot dead during live-fire training

Rod Minchin

A SOLDIER has described hearing the crack of gunfire and a round whizzing past his head moments before another soldier was shot dead during a training exercise.

Lance Corporal Matthew Linacre told a court martial that other soldiers nearby said "f*** that was close" before realising that Irish Ranger Michael Maguire had been fatally shot in the head.

The soldiers, who were members of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, were taking part in an exercise at the Castlemartin Training Area in Pembrokeshire in May 2012.

Rgr Maguire, 21, from County Cork, Ireland, was shot in the forehead by a round fired from a GPMG machine gun.

Cpl Linacre said he and other soldiers, including Rgr Maguire, were in a rest area getting their kit together to leave when he heard a shot ring out.

"There was a distinctive crack and round going past my head," he told the court.

"They were commenting on how close it was. A few were like 'f*** that was close'."

He told the court another nearby soldier said: "F*** he's been shot in the head."

Cpl Linacre said he turned around and saw the soldier lying on the floor with a wound to his head, while others shouted: "Man down."

"More rounds came over. Sgt Pankhurst said to take cover behind the vehicles," Cpl Linacre said.

"Once I ran over to the lorry I turned around and saw two corporals treating Rgr Maguire."

Cpl Linacre said that at the time of the incident he and Rgr Maguire were not wearing their helmets or body armour.

Two officers and a sergeant are facing court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire, in connection with the soldier's death.

Captain Jonathan Price, 32, now of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish, is accused of the manslaughter by gross negligence of Rgr Maguire through his failure to set up and supervise a safe exercise.

The prosecution allege he failed to attend a recce of the range when preparing a Range Action Safety Plan (Rasp), that he placed targets too close together and he failed to "deconflict" the two exercises.

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Bell, 45, and Warrant Officer Stuart Pankhurst, 40, are both accused of negligently performing a duty.

Lt Col Bell, the senior planning officer, is accused of failing to review or counter-sign the Rasp produced by Capt Price and failing to supervise or support him.

Staff Sgt Pankhurst, who was supervising the exercise involving Rgr Maguire in area 10A, is accused of failing to "express any caution or concern" despite having attended the recce and having knowledge of the extent of the adjacent shooting in area 10B.

All three defendants deny the charges and the trial before a board of seven senior officers continues.

Press Association

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