Page last updated at 16:39 GMT, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

UK 'friendly fire' soldier named

L/Cpl Michael Pritchard
L/Cpl Pritchard's family have paid tribute to him

A British soldier killed in a suspected "friendly fire" incident in Afghanistan was L/Cpl Michael David Pritchard, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

The Kent-born 22-year-old, who lived in Eastbourne, Sussex, served with the 4th Regiment, Royal Military Police.

He was killed by "small arms fire" in the Sangin area of Helmand on Sunday. The incident is under investigation.

His family paid tribute to "Pritch", describing him as a "lover of life" who would always be in their hearts.

L/Cpl Pritchard's death takes the total number of British soldiers killed since the start of operations in Afghanistan in 2001 to 241, including 104 this year.

The MoD has confirmed the possibility that it was "caused as a result of friendly fire".

He was a professional and robust soldier and one who was both physically and morally courageous
Lt Col Debbie Poneskis

However, a spokesman has said no firm conclusion will be reached until after his inquest.

L/Cpl Pritchard was born in Maidstone, Kent, and joined the Royal Military Police (RMP) in 2007. He had been in Afghanistan since October.

His family said: "With great sadness we say goodbye to our beloved son, a lover of life who has lived life to the full and has brought great joy to all those who are lucky enough to know him.

"A light that shines brightly, our precious son, brother, grandson, boyfriend and special friend to all, we are very proud of you in all that you have done and achieved and you will always be in our hearts now and ever more."

'Unbearable grief'

The soldier's commanding officer, Lt Col Debbie Poneskis, described him as "everything you would want in a military policeman".

"He was a professional and robust soldier and one who was both physically and morally courageous," she said, adding that he was "a cheeky chap, whose laughter was infectious".

"L/Cpl Pritchard's death has hit us as a regiment very hard, at a time when we thought we had already suffered unbearable pain and grief."

Several Royal Military Policemen have been killed in recent months.

They include Acting Cpl Steven Boote and Cpl Nicholas Webster-Smith, who were shot dead by a rogue Afghan policeman in November, and Sgt Robert Loughram-Dickson, who died in a gun battle in the same month.

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said he was "deeply saddened" at L/Cpl Pritchard's death.

"He was hard-working and dependable and was showing great promise as a junior non-commissioned officer," he added.

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