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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 November 2007, 18:24 GMT
Coroner's bomb death frustration
Gordon Gentle
Gordon Gentle died before counter measures were installed
A coroner has expressed frustration at the "endless" possible explanations as to why a bomb-jamming device was not delivered to frontline troops in Iraq.

Her comments came during the inquest into the death of Fusilier Gordon Gentle from Glasgow.

The 19-year-old was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra on 28 June 2004.

The life-saving electronic counter measures (ECMs) were issued to the 1st Battalion of Royal Highland Fusiliers hours after the blast.

Selena Lynch, deputy assistant coroner for Oxfordshire, heard complicated evidence from a series of Army logisticians in a bid to discover why the Royal Highland Fusiliers (RHF) regiment was not supplied with the devices.

The ECMs were designed to disable improvised explosives like the one that killed Fusilier Gentle.

The inquest in Oxford has heard the ECMs were in theatre ready for the RHF to collect and fit to their vehicles from 12 June but that it was not until the evening of the soldier's death more than two weeks later that this happened.

'Chased up'

The inquest heard from Staff Sgt Mark Collins, of the Royal Corps of Signals, whose job it was to fit the ECMs to the vehicles once the various units had received them.

He said he "chased up" by phone, "about a week" before the incident in which Fusilier Gentle died, RHF Warrant Officer Tom Brisbane concerning the need for the RHF to pick up uncollected ECM kits sitting in a base store room.

Staff Sgt Collins said WO Brisbane assured him he would collect the kit within 24 hours so it could be fitted.

But it was not until the evening of 28 June that the kits were fitted - after another phone call took place between the two men following Fusilier Gentle's death.

Unfortunately it's very difficult to get to the bottom of this so long after the event
Selena Lynch
Deputy assistant coroner for Oxfordshire

In evidence it emerged that plate adaptors - frames on which ECMs are housed in vehicles to allow them to work effectively - may not have been available to the RHF until 28 June.

Staff Sgt Collins said he would not have fitted an ECM to a vehicle without a plate adaptor as it would not have worked properly.

He said he would have suggested, in an adaptor's absence, that a soldier in the vehicle carried an ECM device in a back pack - available in theatre from 22 June according to documents.

This, although not ideal, would have been better than trying to fit an ECM without an adaptor, he said.

At this the coroner said: "We have been working on the assumption that the ECMs would have been effective (at disabling bombs and therefore saving soldiers' lives) but this makes the whole immaterial.

"Unfortunately it's very difficult to get to the bottom of this so long after the event."

On finding a reason why the ECMs were not with the RHF before 28 June, she added: "The possibilities are endless."

Rose Gentle, from Pollok, Glasgow claims her son would be alive if the ECM had been fitted to his vehicle.

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