Soldier died protecting Afghan villagers, inquest hears

Aidan Howell
Image caption Hundreds of mourners turned out for the funeral of Rifleman Howell

A British soldier died when a roadside bomb exploded while he was on patrol helping to protect Afghan villagers, an inquest has heard.

Rifleman Aidan Howell, 19, from Desborough, Northamptonshire, died in a blast near Forward Operating Base Zeebrugge in Helmand.

A post-mortem examination found he had died as a result of blast injuries.

Coroner Anne Pember recorded a verdict that Rifleman Howell had been unlawfully killed on active service.

The teenager, who served with the 3rd Battalion The Rifles, was on patrol when the device detonated on 28 December, the inquest at Kettering Magistrates' Court heard.

Maj Mike Lynch, officer commanding C Company, 3 Rifles, said: "I was 100m away. I looked to my right to see a large amount of debris in the air.

"I was unaware it was Rifleman Howell who had been injured."

Rifleman Howell's father, Stephen, said in a statement: "In 2009 he was told he would be going to Afghanistan with his unit and, although knowing the dangers, he was quite looking forward to it."

Footballers' tributes

The coroner said: "He was clearly a brave, remarkable young man hugely respected and never one to shy from danger."

Speaking after the inquest, Maj Lynch said: "Rifleman Howell was a very brave, very strong rifleman. He was a highly respected and selfless individual who would never do anything to harm anyone."

Rifleman Howell's funeral with full military honours took place at St Giles Church, Desborough, in December.

The soldier was a Leeds United fan and met the players before he left for Afghanistan.

Speaking after his death, they said: "He may be recognised as a hero now, but to his family and everyone who was lucky enough to know him, he was already a hero."

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