Sniper who killed Eastbourne soldier did not have permission to shoot

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The sniper who shot an Eastbourne soldier in Afghanistan did not have permission to open, an inquest has heard.

Lance Corporal Michael Pritchard was killed while on secondment with 4th Rifles in Sangin, Helmand Province, back on December 20, 2009.

An inquest into the 22-year-old’s death heard this week that the sniper had not been given permission to shoot and fired over a Restricted Fire Line established to protect British forces in the area.

Major Richard Streatfield, officer commanding 4 Rifles, told coroner Alan Craze, “From the radio log there was not permission to fire that shot. The last thing anyone heard on the radio was headquarters saying not to fire and to wait. If that communication reaches the person, the sniper would then stop.”

The inquest, which is being held at Eastbourne Town Hall, also heard that one of LCpl Pritchard’s colleagues had radiod other Forces personnel in the area around “half a dozen time” to tell them that warning shots were landing close to the spot where LCpl Pritchard was shot.

However the transmission did not reach the head of operations. Captain Thomas Foulkes-Arnold said that communications between the outpost where LCpl Pritchard was based and the operations room were lost for 20 minutes or more.

The inquest is expected to last two weeks.

See tomorrow’s Gazette and friday’s Herald for more in-depth coverage.