Inquest: Servicemen unaware of soldier’s position

FELLOW servicemen of an Eastbourne soldier who was killed by a British sniper during friendly fire believed he was an insurgent and were not aware of the observation post he was positioned at.

An inquest into Lance Corporal Michael Pritchard’s death heard that he was mistaken for a person laying an IED and was fatally shot while serving in Afghanistan.

The 22-year-old, who lived in Northiam Road, was based in Sangin, Helmand Province, as a military policeman seconded to the 3 Rifles Battlegroup.

During the third day of the inquest at Eastbourne Town Hall Rifleman Ainsley Nash from the A Company, 4 Rifles, explained how had spotted a heat source which he identified as a person in a kneeling position, followed by another heat source heading towards the first.

He duly told his colleague Rifleman Nathan Bennett who had a look.

A message from the observation room was not to fire warning shots but mini flares instead. After that Rifleman Nash explained that communications via the personal role radio became difficult.

He fired the illume and Rifleman Bennett fired two bursts of three to five rounds of warning shots. Giving evidence Rifleman Bennett said he was also unaware of the observation post and agreed with Coroner Alan Craze that he should have known about it.

He estimated the heat source to be about 700 metres away and believed it was insurgents.

Later on a sniper attached to the unit fired warning shots.

In his statement Rifleman Bennett said they later heard a message on the radio saying a man was down, to which he said, “Lance Corporal Knight sat down in the corner saying he felt sick.

“The sniper said ‘don’t tell me we’ve been shooting at one of our own blokes?’

The inquest continues.