Soldiers shot by insurgent 'sharpshooter' - inquest

Pte Lewis Hendry (left) and Pte Conrad Lewis (right)
Image caption Pte Lewis Hendry (left) and Pte Conrad Lewis (right) were both on patrol when they were shot

Two soldiers on foot patrol in Afghanistan were killed by a single shot from an insurgent "sharpshooter", an inquest has heard.

Ptes Conrad Lewis, 22, and and Lewis Hendry 20, were patrolling an area in Helmand Province on 9 February.

A bullet hit Pte Hendry in the head and then hit Pte Lewis in the neck, 10 seconds after a first shot was fired, the inquest was told.

The coroner recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

Pte Lewis, of 4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment was born in Bournemouth but lived in Warwickshire.

Pte Hendry, from Norfolk, was a member of the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment.

The inquest, in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, heard the soldiers were taking part in a joint foot patrol with the Afghan National Army.

They were trying to find enemy firing points and reassure the population of a small village.

The day before, another patrol had been engaged by accurate small arms fire in the same area.

Their patrol left Checkpoint Qudrat, in the northern part of Nad-e Ali, during the morning knowing insurgents were aware of their patrol.

'Dangerous place'

Sgt Maj Christopher Smith of 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment led the patrol and told the inquest it was one of the most dangerous places to go out in.

"The main threat, known to everyone, was a sharpshooter. In this instance there was more than one," he said.

"Conrad was the point man, he was a very important part of the patrol, he was the eyes and ears up front.

"Lewis was one of two behind him."

The patrol was in a single-file formation, the inquest heard, with Pte Hendry and Pte Lewis at the front.

They became aware of Afghan men running around in one of the areas, known as Compound 31, although none was seen with weapons.

"A single round was shot from Compound 31. It was quite accurate," Sgt Maj Smith said.

'Opened fire'

The shot passed through the legs of one of the other patrol members and the patrol opened fire.

A second shot, 10 seconds after the first, hit Pte Hendry in the head and then hit Pte Lewis in the neck.

Sgt Maj Smith said the men had been kneeling down behind a wall when the shot hit them.

A statement from soldier A, a member of the special forces support group, was read by the coroner David Ridley.

"He was up front with Conrad and Lewis. They shouted for a target indication following the first shot.

"They did not appear to know where the compound was, they were shoulder to shoulder on bent knee and had a map out.

"He recalls a single shot, he'd just shouted where Compound 31 was, that's when they both fell to the right, on top of him."

The pair were treated by a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps who attended to Pte Lewis first, and said his initial assessment was that he was dead.

'Condition deteriorated'

Soldier A dealt with Pte Hendry, who was conscious so the medic went to help.

Pte Hendry was initially conscious but his condition deteriorated during a flight to Kandahar, where there was a specialist neurosurgeon, the inquest heard.

Both men were then flown to Camp Bastion where they were pronounced dead.

A post-mortem examination found they had both died from a gunshot wound and would not have been expected to survive their injuries, the inquest was told.

Recording his verdict Mr Ridley said both men were seen to fall to the ground.

"Both had been hit by the same bullet.

"Lewis first sustained a gunshot wound to the head, the bullet then striking Conrad next to him in the neck.

"Both sustained an injury incompatible with life."

Pte Hendry, born in Norwich, died three days before his 21st birthday.

A statement from his commanding officer, Capt Ollie Mikulskis, described him as "confident, steadfast, fit and fearless."

"Lewis was the epitome of why this brotherhood of paratroopers is so strong, the epitome of all that is best about the Parachute Regiment," he said.

Sgt Maj Richard Hames, of 3 Para, said Pte Lewis, born in Bournemouth, was a paratrooper first and a civilian second.

"Despite the rigours of and harsh routine of daily contacts and long patrols through the day and night he never faltered in his commitment to his fellow Airborne brothers," he said.

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