Army explosives dog Theo given highest military award

Lance Corporal Liam Tasker and his Springer spaniel Theo in action Credit: MoD/PA Wire

An Army explosives sniffer dog has been posthumously awarded the highest accolade that any animal can receive in recognition of saving human life.

Springer spaniel Theo and his handler Lance Corporal Liam Tasker were a close and formidable team, uncovering a record number of hidden explosives in Afghanistan.

Theo died of a seizure in March 2011 just hours after his companion was shot by insurgents while on patrol in Helmand Province.

Officially Theo died of shock, but in the Army it is often said that he died of a broken heart.

ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies reports:

Theo and Liam's role was to provide search and clearance support - uncovering hidden weapons, improvised explosive devices and bomb-making equipment.

The pair, who were said to have been inseparable, detected a record 14 Taliban roadside bombs and weapons caches in five months.

Their teamwork is believed to have saved countless lives.

Theo was awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal at Wellington Barracks in London today.

The award, marked with the words 'For Gallantry: We also serve', is the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

Sergeant Matthew Jones and his springer spaniel Grace collected the award in Theo's place.

Sergeant Matthew Jones and his springer spaniel Grace collecting Theo's award Credit: MoD

Lance Corporal Tasker's family were in the audience at the awards ceremony.

His mother, Jane Duffy, described Theo as her son's "best mate" and said they were together all of the time in Afghanistan.

"Liam got his mention in dispatches, so it's lovely that Theo is getting his PDSA Dickin Medal and he's being recognised for his bravery as well," she said.

"They'll be watching us and they'll be so proud. I just wish they were here to get it themselves. Theo and Liam saved so many lives out there."

(L-R) Jane Duffy, Sergeant Matthew Jones, Nicola Duffy and Laura Tasker (Liam's sisters) with search dog Grace Credit: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

Theo made the most confirmed operational finds by any arms and explosives search dog in Afghanistan to date.

On one occasion, he is said to have discovered an underground tunnel leading to a room in which insurgents were suspected of making bombs and hiding from coalition forces.

Sergeant Jones, who served with Liam and Theo, said that military dogs enjoy working in Afghanistan.

"The dogs love it. It's quite weird to say because a lot of soldiers have their pressures. But the dogs are out there for their handler and they just want to have fun," he said.

Theo's award 'for gallantry' Credit: MoD