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  1. David Johns (@davidjohns_itv)

MoD criticised at soldier's inquest

There are to be further investigations after a Kent soldier was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. Sapper Mark Antony Smith, who served with Maidstone's 3-6 Engineers, died in Helmand when a smoke shell fell short of its target.

But poor record-keeping by the MoD is being blamed for the inquest's inability to find out precisely why that happened. David Johns reports, speaking to Sapper Smith's mother, Helen Smith, and 36 Engineers' Captain Douglas Brain.

The MOD should 'take responsibility' for Mark's death

The family of Sapper Mark Smith, who was killed in a 'friendly fire' incident in Afghanistan when a mortar shell fell short of its target, has told ITV Meridian that they believe his death was 'preventable' and that the Ministry of Defence's investigation into the incident was 'flawed'.

Sapper Smith served with 36 Engineers in Kent.

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Coroner rules cause of death is 'unknown' in soldier's inquest

The coffin of Sapper Mark Smith is carried through the churchyard of St Martin of Tours Church in Eynsford, Kent, during his funeral. Credit: Press Association

The Coroner presiding over the inquest into a Kent soldier who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan has ruled that the cause of Sapper Mark Smith's death "remains unknown" due to an "unsatisfactory investigation" by military personnel.

Twenty six year old Sapper Mark Antony Smith, who served with 36 Engineers, died in the Sangin area of Helmand in Afghanistan on July 26, 2010 after a smoke screen shell fell 264 metres short of its target.

Coroner Roger Hatch told the inquest in Gravesend that we cannot know how or why Sapper Smith died, because there are a number of possible explanations to cause the shortfall of the mortar, largely because of the MOD's unsatisfactory investigation into the incident.

He recorded that Sapper Mark Smith died in active service when a shell fell short of its target.

Both counsel for the inquiry and and for the family said the evidence had been hampered by the military authorities, with evidence missing and records mislaid and that there was a systematic failure in the collection of evidence.

The Coroner recommended that a statutory enquiry should be held into the failure of the Ministry of Defence's investigation into his death.

Kent soldier killed by 32 year old shell, inquest hears.

A Kent soldier killed in friendly fire in Afghanistan was hit by a 32-year-old shell, an inquest has heard. Sapper Mark Antony Smith, 26, from Swanley, Kent, died in the Sangin area of Helmand in Afghanistan on July 26, 2010 after a smoke screen shell fell 264 metres from its target.

The shell, manufactured in 1981, was two years older than Sapper Smith at the time and may have been stored at the army base for up to four years. Capt Alex Bidulph, who was present when the guns were fired, told the inquest in Gravesend, Kent that he was surprised the shell had been 32 years old.

I don't think it is by any means ideal. I don't know how long you can keep ammunition. It seems a surprising amount of time, that's for sure."

– Captain Alex Bidulph

Warrant Officer Class 2 Mike Brazier, who worked with Capt Bidulph, said the propellants, which are attached to the shells, could have degraded with age and made the shell fall short. The inquest is due to close on Thursday.