Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Shot oil worker's Ethiopian security 'sub-standard'

An oil worker had "sub-standard" security when he was shot dead while carrying out surveys in a dangerous area of Ethiopia, an inquest has heard.

Jason Read, from Portsmouth, was killed in April 2010 when his car was ambushed near Danot town in the conflict-ravaged Ogaden region of the country.

The inquest heard the 39-year-old had a driver and soldier with him as he did a survey of ground vibrations.

David Horsley, coroner for Portsmouth, recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

Automatic rifles

Mr Read worked for Tesla IMC Geophysics International, which was subcontracted to the Malaysian oil giant Petronas, and had previously worked in Ethiopia, Uganda and Europe.

He was well-known in the Portsmouth area as Justin Packham before he changed his name about 15 years ago.

Ian Angus, corporate health, safety and environment manager for IMC, said the entire operation was being protected by 400 soldiers provided by the Ethiopian military.

But while the actual survey group had approximately 75 soldiers, Mr Read was accompanied by a driver and a single soldier in his pick-up truck.

Mr Horsely suggested to Mr Angus that the security cover was sub-standard and not to the company's requirements and Mr Angus agreed.

He told the inquest in Portsmouth that it was believed that the vehicle was ambushed by a gang of two or three men, probably armed with automatic rifles.

The driver and soldier survived but with serious injuries.

Mr Angus said it was unclear who was responsible for the killing, with a number of armed groups operating in the area.

'Adventurous spirit'

He said that "ideally" Mr Read's vehicle would have been accompanied by a separate vehicle containing his armed escort.

The inquest was told that since Mr Read's death, Tesla IMC had changed its security arrangements.

"We would probably have had a second vehicle with armed guards for his vehicle," he added.

Det Insp Dave Smith, who investigated the death for Hampshire police and who had previously served in an infantry division of the army, said that the attack had the hallmarks of a "classic ambush" that would have been over in "less than half a minute".

Mr Horsley described Mr Read as a man who had an "adventurous spirit".

He added: "He worked in a very dangerous place, the security depended very much on the local military - it's not what the company would ideally have wanted.

"If the level of cover had been different that day, the outcome might have been different - we cannot say."

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