Page last updated at 12:02 GMT, Thursday, 19 June 2008 13:02 UK

Soldier 'died after punishment'

Private Gavin Williams
Pte Williams suffered a heart attack caused by heatstroke

A soldier collapsed and died of heatstroke while being subjected to an informal Army punishment known as "beasting", a court has heard.

Pte Gavin Williams, 22, of Hengoed, Caerphilly, died at Lucknow Barracks in Tidworth, Wiltshire, on 3 July, 2006.

Sgt Russell Price, 45, Sgt Paul Blake, 37, and Cpl John Edwards, 32, who carried out the punishment, all deny the manslaughter of Pte Williams.

The jury was told the punishment was "exhausting physical activity".

'Crude discipline'

Pte Williams told the three senior colleagues overseeing his punishment that he was "cooking up", that he could not go on, the prosecution said.

Prosecutor Mark Dennis QC said in his opening statement at Winchester Crown Court: "By the time Williams fell to the ground en route to the medical centre, the damage had already been done and his body was now reacting to the lethal effects of hyperthermia (overheating)."

Within half an hour, Pte Williams suffered a cardiac arrest caused by heatstroke and was pronounced dead an hour and a half later.

Mr Dennis told the court beasting was "a form of summary justice" used by the regimental police.

"A beasting was a somewhat crude disciplinary measure designed and intended to humiliate, push to the limit and hurt the recipient," he said.

Mr Dennis said Pte Williams' beasting came after a weekend of drunken antics preceded by a raft of other disciplinary breaches.

Sgt Price, according to Mr Dennis, supervised the beasting of Pte Williams, who he regarded as "a disgrace to the regiment".

Beasting witness

Sgt Price, then the Provost Sergeant heading the regimental police team on duty that day, was "willingly" assisted by Cpl Edwards and Sgt Blake, a physical training instructor, Mr Dennis said.

The jury heard how Sgt Price said in a police interview that his job was to stamp out ill-discipline in the battalion.

Mr Dennis said: "Cpl Edwards told a fellow corporal at the mess meeting later in the morning - before Williams collapsed and died - that he had given Williams 'the best beasting of my/his life'."

The trial heard how one soldier who saw the beasting taking place said: "I heard the soldier say 'I can't go on, I've got to stop'."

Sgt Blake said he decided to stop the beasting session after Pte Williams mentioned to him that he had been passing blood over the weekend, the court heard.

Despite it being "obvious" that Pte Williams was in need of medical treatment, Sgt Blake marched him the long way round to the medical centre while making him perform regular overhead thrusts with a 15lb (7kg) gym bag, said Mr Dennis.

Following his collapse, Pte Williams was taken to hospital in Salisbury where initial tests revealed his body temperature was 41.7C (107F), "way above the normal body temperature of 37C (98.6F)", the prosecutor said.

Mr Dennis, concluding his case opening, said the three defendants had unlawfully killed Pte Williams by subjecting him to ill-treatment and physical abuse.

The trial continues.

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