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Last Updated: Friday, 13 July 2007, 19:09 GMT 20:09 UK
Inquiry delays inquest on soldier
Lance Corporal Luke McCulloch
L/Cpl McCulloch served with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment
The inquest into the death of a soldier killed by Taleban mortar shrapnel has been adjourned to allow military police to complete an investigation.

L/Cpl Luke McCulloch, 21, who lived in Gillingham, Kent, died in September 2006 in Sangin Valley, Helmand.

He had taken off his protective gear to eat a meal in his army compound but then came under heavy mortar fire.

The coroner said he could not hear any more evidence into his death until the inquiries were complete.

The South African-born British citizen was serving with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, and had come off sentry duty in very high temperatures.

It has been reported that he had changed into shorts and possibly a T-shirt shortly before the attack took place.

Conflicting accounts

L/Cpl McCulloch earned a mention in Dispatches, an honour awarded for his bravery during his time in Afghanistan in 2006.

His inquest was adjourned last month after the court in Oxford heard conflicting accounts about what orders were given on when body armour was to be worn and when soldiers were to be inside the bunker.

Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker said on Friday: "I have learned that there is to be a military police investigation on the matters that caused part of the adjournment last month.

"I was not aware of that at the last hearing."

Suction pump

During Friday's proceedings, Cpl Trevor Coult, who was sitting on the ground next to L/Cpl McCulloch when he was hit by shrapnel in the back of his head, described hearing an explosion and told how he realised that his comrade had been injured.

The court also heard evidence from the medic, Capt Samuel White, who tried to save his life.

He said he had been unable to clear the soldier's airways with the hand-operated suction pump that was standard field equipment.

Mr Walker said: "In hindsight would it have been better to have an electric suction pump?" to which Mr White replied: "I thought that I had the best equipment I could have at that location at that time."

The coroner adjourned the inquest to a date to be set and asked that the military police investigation not stretch beyond the end of September.


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