Page last updated at 19:53 GMT, Monday, 6 October 2008 20:53 UK

Soldier inquest told of map error

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Cpl Mark Wright's family disagrees with the Ministry of Defence's version of events

An Edinburgh soldier was killed in Afghanistan when a routine patrol strayed into a minefield that had already been identified as a danger.

An inquest in Oxford heard how Corporal Mark Wright, 27, died after trying to save the life of a comrade hurt when a mine exploded.

Cpl Wright, of The Parachute Regiment's 3rd Battalion, based in Colchester, was posthumously awarded the George Cross.

Six others were injured, including three who lost limbs in the explosion.

The patrol encountered the unmarked minefield in the region of Kajaki in Helmand Province on 6 September, 2006.

I couldn't believe I was being sent there with information that I knew was incorrect and had been proved to be incorrect
Captain Nicholas French
Inquest witness

The inquest heard that the area the soldiers strayed into had been identified as a danger only weeks before.

Captain Nicholas French, who was attached to 3 Para, said he had arrived in the area in April 2006 and his role was to advise on indirect military fire.

He told the inquest that when he first arrived there were no mine maps available and he had spent days gathering information on areas that could be a danger around the Kajaki Dam, which was being protected by a private US security firm and being targeted by Taliban mortar fire.

Capt French told the court that one of the US security personnel known as "Kajaki John" had told him that the area south of the ridge was "a dangerous path".

He added that Kajaki John told him: "Go off that line and I will shoot you myself."

Compensation agreed

Capt French returned to the base at Camp Bastion with the information in June but said it was not incorporated into a map.

A week after the explosions that killed Cpl Wright, Capt French said he was sent back to the area with a platoon.

He told the court: "I couldn't believe I was being sent there with information that I knew was incorrect and had been proved to be incorrect.

"I was given this map and I stated a number of times I thought it was incorrect."

Mark Wright
Cpl Wright was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his actions

The inquest, which is set to last for up to two weeks, is due to hear evidence regarding the rescue operation in which a Chinook helicopter was unable to land and had no winch to lift the injured men to safety.

The issue of whether mines were set off by the Chinook's downdraft is also set to be explored.

It also emerged that solicitors representing the family of Cpl Wright and three of the injured soldiers are due to agree a compensation package with the Ministry of Defence without the need for legal proceedings.

Fusilier Andy Barlow, Lance Corporal Paul Hartley and Corporal Stuart Pearson, who lost limbs, had joined the Wright family in launching a claim last year.

They are due to be witnesses in the inquest.

A joint statement said: "MPH Solicitors and the MoD are pleased that a mechanism has been agreed under which settlement of the compensation claims arising from the incident in Kajaki, Afghanistan, will be achieved amicably.

"In doing so the parties have adopted a realistic approach which will negate the need for a potentially traumatic court hearing."

The inquest continues.




SEE ALSO
George Cross for 'brave' soldier
14 Dec 06 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
Posthumous VC for heroic soldier
14 Dec 06 |  North Yorkshire
Funeral set for capital soldier
13 Sep 06 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
Tributes paid to heroic soldier
08 Sep 06 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife

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