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Last Updated: Monday, 15 September, 2003, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Bloodshed at soldiers' party
A drunk soldier on peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan blasted a colleague with bullets as he shouted "Do you think you're hard now?" before turning the gun on himself, an inquest has heard.

In August last year, Corporal John Gregory, 30, from Catterick, North Yorkshire, fired up to 10 bullets at Sergeant Robert Busuttil, also 30, from Sketty in Swansea, as he relaxed in a hammock at his military base at Kabul airport.

Just a short while before, they had been part of a group who had gathered for a farewell barbecue for Corporal Gregory as he was due to return to Bulford Camp in Wiltshire.

Wiltshire Coroner David Masters told the court on Monday: "At some point there was an exchange between Corporal Gregory and Sergeant Busuttil.

They then made up and shook hands, but Gregory left the recreation area, coming back 40 minutes later with an SA80 rifle.
Coroner David Masters

"Gregory struck Busuttil, Busuttil retaliated by striking Gregory several times to the head.

"They then made up and shook hands, but Gregory left the recreation area, coming back 40 minutes later with an SA80 rifle.

"He found Busuttil lying in a hammock. He said to Busuttil 'do you think you're hard now?' or words to that effect.

"Gregory raised his rifle and pointed it towards Busuttil."

The court then heard how people fled to take cover.

After a number of shots were fired, Corporal Gregory was seen to placed the rifle under his chin and pulled the trigger.

Pathologist Dr Hugh White said the shots to Sergeant Busuttil's body were at different angles suggesting he was moving when he was shot.

And an autopsy on Corporal Gregory showed that he was two and a half times the drink drive limit, he added.

This was despite a "two-can" rule, under which only four units of alcohol could be consumed within a day by the servicemen.

But many witnesses remarked on a "general relaxation" of the alcohol rule for British forces in Afghanistan.

A number told the inquest that having three or four cans was deemed acceptable as long as soldiers were still fit to carry out their duties.

Staff Sergeant Lee Shepherd, the manager of the beer-only bar at Camp Souter, told the coroner that a briefing between the Regimental Sergeant Major and senior non-commissioned officers agreed on a "big boy rule" for soldiers.

He said: "He addressed us on the two-can rule and said he didn't mind soldiers having three or four cans on an evening because the two-can rule wasn't realistic.

"Sometimes lads who have been away for long periods will come back and if you say 'Listen guys, you can only have the two cans' they can get a bit upset because they need to relax.

The inquest also heard that soldiers were allowed to carry their loaded SA80 rifles at all times even after drinking alcohol, although during this particular party on they were kept in a rifle rack.

Both the dead men serving with the Royal Logistics Corps and were part of a small contingent from the British Army in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

The inquest continues.


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