Soldier was 'accidentally' shot by sniper

A coroner has ruled that a soldier from Sussex was accidentally killed when he was shot by a British sniper.

Lance Corporal Michael Pritchard, who was 22 and from Eastbourne, died while on active service in Afghanistan.

He was shot in the chest and abdomen by a British sniper in a remote observation post.

An inquest in Eastbourne heard that Lance Corporal Malcolm Graham, of the 1st Battalion Royal Scots Borders thought he was shooting at Taliban insurgents.

L Cpl Pritchard was operating at an observation post to watch a blind spot on an access road on the Sangin area of Afghanistan to ensure that insurgents were not able to plant an improvised explosive devices.

East Sussex Coroner Alan Craze said a number of factors including poor communication had played a part in L Cpl Pritchard's death but that the basic reason for the tragedy was in the failure of the organisation which would have prevented the friendly fire incident.

He recorded a narrative verdict.

Following the inquest, L Cpl Pritchard's mother Helen Perry said the last time she had spoken to her son she could hear the fear in his voice.

She said: "While Michael was employed in Afghanistan we kept in regular contact through telephone and emails and he tried to remain his upbeat self.

"During the week before he died he phoned three times and I could sense the fear in his voice."

She added that she felt his death had been avoidable but that it had been caused by "speculation and assumption".

She said: "Nobody in command took any action to rectify the situation and subsequently nobody has taken any responsibility for Michael's death. He has received no apology."

She added that radio and communication problems, un-robust procedures and poor leadership meant her son was observed for more than an hour by seven people who all thought they were looking at insurgents.

She said: "We recognise a number of people were involved but there was an onus on the people who were higher up the chain to take control and rectify the situation in order to save Michael's life.

"Michael sadly no longer has a voice so it's up to us as his family to ensure that he has one and to do what we can to avoid a repetition of this event.

"The grief of loss is all too much to bear and we hope this never happens to another soldier, another family."

Eastbourne, Sussex, Michael Pritchard
Lance Corporal Michael Pritchard was operating in the Sangin region of Afghanistan Credit: MoD

Lieutenant Colonel Nadine Parks, Commanding Officer, 4th Regiment Royal Military Police, said: "Lance Corporal Pritchard was a brave and professional soldier whose tragic death deprived the Royal Military Police of a promising young junior non-commissioned officer and loyal friend.

"He made a huge impact on our regiment in the short time he served with us, and his loss has been felt most keenly by those who worked alongside him.

"Often the source of humour, his easy charm belied an inner integrity and sincerity that made him committed to his duty as a military policeman and quickly endeared him to colleagues within the 4th Battalion The Rifles."