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'Mistakes' caused Marine's gun death

A Royal Marine recruit was shot dead after a series of orders ...

A Royal Marine recruit was shot dead after a series of orders were breached in a training exercise, an inquest was told.
Richards, from Cwmavon, near Port Talbot, south Wales, died in the early hours of 31 March last year during training exercise Hunter's Moon at Woodbury Common.

On Thursday, the man responsible for training at the Royal Marine training base at Lympstone, east Devon, admitted mistakes had been made.

Colonel Stephen Hartnell, director of training at the base, told the jury at Exeter: "There are a number of clear orders which have been infringed with tragic results."

Earlier the inquest had heard that blank ammunition should have been fired when the training team attacked the recruits from the 780 Troop in a copse during a mock attack.

However, 12 or 13 live rounds were also fired. Two of them hit Wayne Richards in the head and shoulder, and he died from his wounds at the scene.

The fatal rounds were fired from one of two magazines of live ammunition taken onto the Common for use with a weapon held by a designated sentry in case of possible terrorist attack.

Corporal David Maslan fired the live rounds, but he told police investigators, that he did not fire directly at any individual at any time.

Col Hartnell told the hearing that the instructor responsible for armed sentry duty could continue with training despite the possession of live ammunition, but was not to be in possession of blank and live ammunition at the same time.

Any training he took part in would be with an unloaded weapon, said Col Hartnell.

'Catalogue of errors'

He agreed with Ray Lewis, counsel for the Richards family, that a number of rules and regulations specially designed for the safety and protection of Marines had been contravened.

"The tragedy came about because of a catalogue of errors," said Mr Lewis, to which Col Hartnell replied: "A series of errors."

Mr Lewis added: "From start to finish there has been a catalogue of mistakes."

Coroner Richard van Oppen said there had been a whole series of breaches of armed sentry rules.

He asked how it could be that on one exercise effectively none of those engaged on the instruction were aware of the orders relating to the armed weapon or armed sentry.

"I have no rational excuse or reason why it should happen in this instance," said Col Hartnell. The hearing continues on Friday.