Page last updated at 17:29 GMT, Wednesday, 1 October 2008 18:29 UK

SAS man 'shot by British bullet'

An SAS soldier shot dead rescuing a group of hostages in Iraq was killed with a type of bullet used by British troops, an inquest has heard.

Sgt Jonathan Hollingsworth was hit in the chest as his unit freed a group of Western security guards held hostage in a Basra apartment block.

The 35-year-old died later in a military hospital.

Hereford Coroner David Halpern was told it was "well known" insurgents had access to British bullets.

Sgt Hollingsworth had been leading three teams on the operation in which he was killed in November 2006.

'No-go area'

He and another soldier, known as Soldier B, had been the first to enter a flat in the apartment block, the Hereford Town Hall inquest heard.

The environment was "dark and very dusty" and pretty much a "no-go area" for British troops.

He died with friends holding his hand
Colleague of Sgt Hollingsworth

Soldier B said they had just entered the kitchen when Sgt Hollingsworth told him he needed a medic.

The inquest heard there was confusion as to who had fired the bullet.

Soldier B said he did not fire his own gun and did not see anyone who appeared to be carrying a weapon other than British troops.

But another soldier, known only as M, said he was inside the flat and heard a single shot but did not know where it came from.

'No gunshots'

The hearing was told several soldiers outside the building said they heard gunfire and one of them said he "strongly believed" that what he heard was a shot from a rifle inside the building.

The soldier, who was armed with a weapon which fired 5.56mm bullets, said he did not use it at any time.

He said a "relatively quick" search after Sgt Hollingsworth was injured did not find any weapons or 5.56mm ammunition in the flat.

Soldiers entering the flat had found men, women and children and detained all the men in the apartments, apart from two who escaped.

Mr Halpern said it was a "possibility" that one of these men had a weapon, discharged it, and jumped over the balcony.

Another soldier, identified as P, said in a statement that he had heard gunfire and then saw two men jump from the balcony.

He said he did not believe they were in the operation's "target" flat at the time the shot went off.

'Mixed-up'

Phil Boyce, a forensic scientist, told the inquest he examined the remains of the bullet which killed Sgt Hollingsworth but could not identify the rifle.

He said it was manufactured before June 2000 and had been fired from more than 3ft away.

Soldier B, who was in charge of ammunition stores, said the bullet which killed Sgt Hollingsworth - an "RG" type manufactured before 2000 - would not have been used by troops on operations, but only in training.

Andrew Davidson, representing Sgt Hollingsworth's family, asked Soldier B: "Ammunition is ammunition, it might get mixed up - is that fair?"

Soldier B replied: "Yes, possibly."

Sgt Hollingsworth was the 126th UK service personnel to die since the start of hostilities in Iraq.

Another soldier, who treated Sgt Hollingsworth after he was injured, passed on a message to his dead comrade's family.

He said: "At the time that Jon died, I'd just like you to know that he died with friends.

"He died with friends holding his hand."

The inquest continues.




SEE ALSO
Soldier killed in Iraq raid named
25 Nov 06 |  Middle East

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