Cambridgeshire

Soldier killed in bomb blast was under enemy fire

WO2 Colin Beckett
Image caption WO2 Beckett was killed in a bomb blast in Afghanistan

An "inspirational" sergeant major was killed by a bomb in Afghanistan while taking cover from enemy fire, an inquest heard.

Warrant Officer Class 2 (Company Sergeant Major) Colin Beckett, 37, died in Helmand Province on 5 February.

The inquest, in Peterborough, was told WO2 Beckett had detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) as he took shelter in a ditch.

A verdict of unlawful death while on active service was recorded.

WO2 Beckett, of 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (3 PARA), had been taking part in an operation to disrupt insurgents.

The inquest was told another soldier was injured by a second bomb as troops tried to recover WO2 Beckett's body.

Lt Col Oliver Kingsbury said the patrol had been deployed in the Nad-e Ali district to attract enemy fire and draw out insurgents.

As shots were fired, the majority of the patrol took cover near a mosque but three others, including WO2 Beckett, were forced into a ditch to provide protection.

'Iconic leader'

They were in an area where the "perceived threat of direct fire" was greater than the threat of IEDs, he said.

The inquest heard there had been nothing to suggest an IED had been planted in the ditch, which had not been checked with metal detectors.

Lt Col Kingsbury said: "I was about 50 metres from the sergeant major and as we prepared to move off I heard an explosion and saw a plume of dust.

"It was immediately clear that he was dead.

"As one of our patrol moved into recover the body, there was another explosion and I became aware another soldier had been injured."

Recording a verdict of unlawful death while in active service, Peterborough coroner Gordon Ryall said: "It clearly was a very dangerous operation as their task was to flush out insurgents and deal with them.

"When the order came to move off, he stood on the device.

"It is trivial to say it was unlucky, but there was certainly an element of that."

WO2 Beckett, from Peterborough, joined the army in 1990 and developed a specialisation in anti-tank command.

His widow, Rachel, gave birth to the couple's first child, Freya, shortly after his death.

Army colleagues described him as an "inspirational and iconic leader" who had quickly risen through the ranks.

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