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Brighton ex-soldier tale of trauma under question
2:21pm Monday 2nd September 2013 in News
Questions have been raised over whether a Territorial Army soldier facing a jail term for stealing a rifle and ammunition really did witness horrors in Afghanistan.
Corporal Harry Killick, 36, could be jailed for five years after pleading guilty to possessing a prohibited weapon and stealing a firearm and ammunition from a TA barracks in Brighton.
He has claimed that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of the offence after witnessing comrades killed and collecting DNA from an insurgent's body parts during a tour of Helmand.
At a Newton hearing at Lewes Crown Court, Killick's version of events, relayed by him to police, the probation service and psychiatrists, was called into question.
Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Minton, the commanding officer of Killick's regiment, said in a statement that although he would have been aware of a fatal incident, he did not witness it.
Killick also was not responsible for retrieving DNA from the body parts of insurgents, he added. Lt Col Minton said that Killick did not undergo trauma risk management because he did not warrant it.
Lt Col Minton said: "The only issue that Cpl Killick had with Afghanistan was to do with the tour having finished and returning to civilian life."
The court was told that Killick, of the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment, had "social needs" following the breakdown of his marriage and had around £20,000 in debts.
His relationship with his girlfriend had also broken down, which he took badly, and he was coming to terms with having nowhere to live on demobilisation.
Lt Col Minton said the regiment had done their "level best" to provide for Killick's needs, and that he was not considered a risk to himself or others.
Captain Andrew Layzell said he received a phone call from Killick's estranged wife, Nicola Killick, on October 19 2012 reporting concerns about his mental state.
Killick had signed over his car to her, cancelled his bank cards and said to his children that he would not be seeing them after that Friday, the court heard.
Capt Layzell said that as a result of those concerns, Killick was told he would not be joining his comrades on a training weekend at a firing range.
On the same day a comrade of Killick's left an SA80 assault rifle unattended for some 15 minutes, leaving Killick free to steal it, the court has previously heard.
Killick also took some ammunition with the aim of taking his own life.
In a "blind panic", the soldier who left the rifle unattended tried to phone Killick about the missing weapon but there was no reply.
With the rifle, Killick had driven to the home of his former girlfriend, Jackie Lothian, to seek answers about their recent split. But when he called in he was greeted by her brother, Jason Lothian, who said she was not in.
Hanging near the ground, Killick had with him a jacket which covered the rifle. Mr Lothian did not fear for his life as it was not raised but said that Killick was "extremely emotional".
Matters escalated when Killick was invited into the property and pulled out some ammunition and locked it into the weapon, but there was no threat to kill Mr Lothian.
Later, Mr Lothian grabbed a lead for the dog and ran out of the house to a neighbour's where police were called. Armed officers arrived and Killick was "totally compliant" and gave a full account to police following his arrest.
Colour Sergeant Matthew Gosling, who has seen active service in Kosovo and Afghanistan since joining the Army aged 16, disputed claims by Killick that he had witnessed a comrade being killed.
Although 4 Platoon sustained one death, C/Sgt Gosling said their unit -
5 Platoon - suffered no deaths or injuries during their tour of Afghanistan.
C/Sgt Gosling said he spent 95% of his time with Killick during the tour and shared a room with him and three other comrades.
He explained that on two occasions air support was called upon to "terminate the threat" of the enemy, and on one occasion C/Sgt Gosling retrieved the DNA, fingerprints and hair samples from a killed insurgent.
Although C/Sgt Gosling dealt with retrieving the samples from the corpse, he said others could have seen the body parts spread over a wide area.
He said: "Any time we needed to do that, I did it myself because I didn't want to expose anyone else to that task."
Killick was probably about 50 metres away, working to make sure his colleague had protection from enemy attack at the time, he added.
C/Sgt Gosling recalled Killick being the last man in the platoon when they came under fire as they crossed a stream.
Footage shot on a soldier's headcam was shown in court of the incident.
Defence counsel Stephen Wedd asked C/Sgt Gosling whether he was frightened.
He replied: "Not at that point, your training takes over."
The court heard that Killick never approached C/Sgt Gosling to talk about any conflict trauma he was suffering, despite the door always being open to him to talk.
Mr Wedd asked: "It's not the done thing to talk about fear in combat, is it?"
And he asked whether soldiers would suppress their feelings so as not to appear to show "cowardice".
C/Sgt Gosling replied: "That could be the case."
The hearing was adjourned to 10.45am tomorrow.
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