Page last updated at 11:39 GMT, Thursday, 26 June 2008 12:39 UK

'Freak' ricochet killed soldier

Private Craig Barber, picture from MoD
Pte Barber was due home on leave to celebrate his first wedding anniversary

A 20-year-old soldier serving in Iraq died as a result of a freak ricochet from a bullet, an inquest has heard.

Private Craig Barber, from Ogmore Vale near Bridgend, was driving his Warrior vehicle when a bullet bounced off his truck and went under his helmet.

The chances of a ricochet killing Pte Barber, who had a young son, were described as "absolutely minute".

Coroner Philip Walters' verdict was "unlawful killing whilst serving his country with distinction".

Pte Barber, a member of the Royal Welsh, was driving his armoured truck when it came under small arms fire in Basra in Iraq - and the shot killed him through the window.

Platoon commander Second Lieutenant Oliver Pope, who was sitting in the back of the Warrior, described Pte Barber's death as a "freak incident."

2nd Lt Pope told the inquest in Bridgend: "The chances of this happening to someone in Craig's position are absolutely minute.

"There was a single round fired towards our vehicle. I didn't know it had hit Craig at first."

He was a proud Royal Welshman and we are consoled that he died doing what he enjoyed doing
Cheryl Rowlands, mother

Pte Barber was driving troops from the Royal Welsh Regiment in the last of a four vehicle convoy on a night operation countering fire attacks on the military base at Basra Palace in August last year.

Pte Barber, who joined the regiment in 2004, was on his second tour of duty and was due home on leave to celebrate his first wedding anniversary with wife Donna, 22, and three-year-old son Bradley.

Ballistics expert Edward Wallace told the inquest how fragments of a bullet which hit the armoured vehicle had gone through the window and under his helmet into his left temple.

Mr Wallace said: "The bullet struck the vehicle prior to striking Pte Barber. It shattered on the vehicle and fragments killed him."

He said the bullet had been manufactured for the US military.

'Larger than life'

A post-mortem examination showed Pte Barber was killed by a single gunshot wound and that he lost consciousness instantly.

Pathologist Dr Nick Hunt said: "No amount of medical intervention could have saved Pte Barber. There was nothing his colleagues could have done to prevent his death."

The operation was to counter fire attacks on the military base at Basra Palace in the Al Fursi district of Basra City.

He had survived a previous attack on his armoured car when it was struck by a roadside bomb.

Bridgend coroner Phillip Walters recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

He said: "Craig Barber was killed while serving his country with distinction. As we have heard it was really a very unlikely event and in normal circumstances this would not have happened."

His mother Cheryl Rowlands, 46, said later: "As a family we are totally devastated at the loss of Craig, our little soldier. He was a larger than life character who lived life to the full.

"He was a devoted father to Bradley and he was the epitome of family life, loved by many and a friend to even more. We apportion no blame to anyone for Craig's death other than the terrorist who killed him.

"He was a proud Royal Welshman and we are consoled that he died doing what he enjoyed doing."




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