30/04/2010

Inquest Into Death Of Senior Officer

The inquest into the death of the most senior officer to be killed in Afghanistan and his teenage colleague will begin today.

Lt Col Rupert Thorneloe, 39, of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, was in charge of more than 1,000 soldiers. He is the most senior British Army officer to be killed in action since the Falklands.

He died alongside trooper Joshua Hammond, of 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, in a blast near Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan on 1 July 2009. Their vehicle struck a roadside bomb.

The inquest into both their deaths will be held at Wiltshire Coroner's Court, sitting at Trowbridge Town Hall.

The BBC's defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said: "After their deaths, attention focused on why the men were travelling in a Viking armoured vehicle.
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"They [Vikings] were first used in Helmand in 2006, but by 2009 they had proved vulnerable to the ever-bigger bombs being laid by the Taliban.

"Last year, the MoD admitted the vehicles had reached the limit of how much they could be armoured. They are now being replaced with another vehicle."

Sarah and Kevin Finnegan, Trooper Hammond's mother and stepfather, recently paid tribute to their son.

They said the teenager had died "doing what he loved".

Mrs Finnegan said: "We were devastated by Josh's death and as a family his loss has left a gaping hole in our lives.

"But we are also very proud. Not only of what he achieved but of the way he chose to live his life."

And, following his death, Lt Col Thorneloe's wife Sally said the father-of-two from Kirtlington, Oxford, would be "sorely missed"

(LB/GK)


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