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Eastbourne soldier died while guarding road, 'friendly fire' inquest told
The commanding officer in charge of a fatally shot soldier has said he did not hear an order giving a British sniper permission to fire.
A two-week inquest began this morning to try to establish whether Royal Military Policeman Michael Pritchard, 22, was killed as a result of friendly fire from a British sniper based at a remote observation post who thought he was engaging insurgents digging in the road. The sniper shot was fired over a Restricted Fire Line, the court was told.
Major Richard Streatfield, the officer commanding the 4 Rifles to which the Eastbourne soldier had been seconded, said a corporal has asked for permission to shoot when suspected insurgents were seen on the road into their camp, but had been told to wait by officers at headquarters.
Mr Streatfield said: “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 for the sound commander. "If that communication reaches the person, the sniper would then stop."
He told East Sussex coroner Alan Craze at the inquest in Eastbourne that soldiers were under daily small arms fire and IED threat both before and after L/Cpl Pritchard's death, which meant they were not getting a lot of sleep. He said earlier that evening a group of men had been seen acting suspiciously and digging in the road.
"In order to stop this flares were fired from the remote sangar as a warning to stop them from doing this. "The men left between 8.30pm and 8.45pm. At 9pm the males appeared to return to the middle of the highway."
Corporal Jonathan Dolton, who was not the sniper, requested a shot on an insurgent, the court was told, but he was told to wait by Lieutenant Michael Holden at headquarters.
Mr Streatfield said: "The next thing I heard was, 'man down'." The inquest was told that permission had to be obtained for a sniper to fire a shot at a target unless there was an immediate threat to him or someone else. the inquest continues.