Pritchard inquest latest

The sniper who shot Eastbourne soldier Lance Corporal Pritchard had completed his sniper training to a ‘high standard’ but was working without a spotter, an inquest has heard.

LCpl Michael Pritchard, a 22-year-old Eastbourne man, was killed by a British sniper in a tragic friendly fire incident in Afghanistan.

An inquest into his death is being held at Eastbourne Town Hall.

The hearing is expected to last for two weeks, and on Tuesday afternoon coroner Alan Craze was told LCpl Malcolm Graham, the sniper who shot LCpl Pritchard, was a fully trained and qualified sniper.

C/Sgt Kevin Currie gave evidence at the inquest and explained LCpl Graham had completed both phases of the sniper training.

C/Sgt Currie said, “His performance on the course was of a high standard. He was confident.

“He was a qualified sniper by the end of phase two of the training.

“It is not designed to be easy and he had his strong and weak points like everyone.”

C/Sgt Currie explained his weak areas included observation.

Mr Craze was also told LCpl Graham was working alone at the time he shot LCpl Pritchard. The inquest heard snipers usually work with more experienced spotters on their post.

C/Sgt Wayne Morgan said, “Snipers should always work in pairs but it is not always the case.

“The spotter would be a trained sniper and would be the more experienced of the pair.”

Weapon systems, including the magnification lenses and thermal imaging equipment were brought in to Eastbourne Town Hall for demonstration purposes.

Catherine Hossain, a scientist who specialises in the thermal imaging equipment which was used on the night, also gave evidence and explained its limitations.

She said the heat of a person showed as a ‘white blob’ and explained it would be difficult to tell between a person and an animal.

She said, “You have to look at body language. At any range you can’t make out a person’s features.”

C/Sgt Morgan said people were often told to make distinguishing shapes such as ‘a Jesus’ of ‘an Elvis’ to identify themselves as ‘goodies’.

Ms Hossain added, “There are 396 elements which can effect what you see through the [thermal] site. It is not a simple science.”

She explained dust, weather and ground temperature all made a difference to the image.

The inquest into the death is continuing and LCpl Graham is expected to give his evidence tomorrow (Wednesday).