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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 June 2007, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Iraq deaths 'unlawful killings'
Clockwise from top left: Sarah-Jayne Mulvihill, John Coxen, Paul Collins, David Dobson, Darren Chapman
The five were killed when their Lynx helicopter was struck by a missile
Five British armed forces personnel were unlawfully killed when their helicopter was shot down in Iraq, a coroner has ruled.

One of the five, Flight Lieutenant Sarah-Jayne Mulvihill, 32, was the first British servicewoman to die in the conflict in Iraq.

Their Lynx aircraft crashed onto an empty building in Basra after a missile strike in May 2006.

The coroner said the firing of the missile "amounted to a terrorist act".

The helicopter exploded. It was engulfed in flames and went down
Private Stuart Drummond

The pilot, Captain David Dobson, 27, Wing Commander John Coxen, 46, father-of-three Lieutenant Commander Darren Chapman, 40, and Marine Paul Collins, 21, also died.

The crew of the Lynx were aware of intelligence reports at the time that insurgents were plotting to shoot down British aircraft in Basra, the inquest heard.

Father's tribute

Private Stuart Drummond, who witnessed the incident from the ground, told the hearing: "I saw a yellow object going towards the helicopter. I thought it was a missile. The helicopter exploded. It was engulfed in flames and went down.

"Just before it was hit, the helicopter lifted as though it was trying to move out of the way. It sort of jerked."

Outside Oxford Coroner's Court, Mike Collins, father of Marine Paul Collins, said: "I would like to pay tribute to the fine, fine people who lost their lives serving their country that day."

A lynx helicopter
The Ministry of Defence says the Lynx is a "deadly tank-killer"

Flt Lt Mulvihill was based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire with Wing Cmdr Coxen, while the other three servicemen were based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset.

Regularly throughout the four-day inquest, Andrew Walker, assistant deputy coroner for Oxfordshire, asked family members to leave for security reasons.

This was on instruction of the Ministry of Defence so evidence about the aircraft's defence systems could be heard in private.

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