AN INQUEST in to the death of a “dedicated soldier” heard of the injuries which had killed him and new rules brought in to the armed forces after his death.
The second and final day of an inquest was held yesterday into the death of 20-year-old Guardsman Jamie Shadrake, who was killed in an attack by Taliban raiders on a temporary checkpoint (TCP) in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Coroner John Gittins recorded a narrative conclusion that Guardsman Shadrake was unlawfully killed while on active service.
The young soldier, who was born in West Bromwich but later moved to Wrexham, was serving as a member of the Queen’s Company of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.
Guardsman Shadrake had just taken guard duty in a sanger – a sentry position built of sandbags – near the main gate to the base at Haji Shamo when the assault was launched at about 4pm on August 17, 2012.
He was likely to have been killed very early on in the minute-long raid, which saw the base come under heavy fire from under-slung and hand-held grenades, and small arms fire by insurgents.
The attack came just three days after British soldier Karl Whittle, also of the Queen’s Company, was killed in an attack on the nearby base of Narquil.
Lance Corporal Guy Boscher, a medical officer, gave evidence at the inquest held in Ruthin.
He had attempted to treat Guardsman Shadrake for his injuries. After the injured soldier was taken to the base’s operations room on a stretcher, Lce Cpl Boshcer found serious injuries to Guardsman Shadrake’s head.
He added his skull was no longer intact, and he had found blood and teeth in the guardsman’s mouth when checking his airways.
The medical team carried out a tracheaostomy – a procedure which involves inserting a small pipe to help them breathe – and carried out CPR, but there was no way to save him.
Lce Cpl Boscher agreed with Mr Gittins that the 20-year-old soldier’s death would have been “instantaneous”, and it is likely he would have died before being brought to the medical team by stretcher.
His body was formally identified later that day by a former colleague after being flown to Camp Bastion.
A post-mortem examination was conducted on Guardsman Shadrake in the UK by forensic pathologist Dr Katherine Scott at Oxford.
Bullet wounds were found to his chest and damage to his shoulder, which was likely to have been caused by grenades thrown or fired by attackers.
The conclusion to the post-mortem examination added he had suffered “catastrophic” head injuries, after either a bullet or shrapnel had entered his helmet.
The pathologist also concluded the bullets were likely to have been fired from a gun of Soviet or former Soviet design, from the AK series of automatic rifles.
Guardsman Shadrake’s older brother Carl Shadrake, who attended the inquest, questioned whether the attack could have come from the northern side of the Pink Route – an important strategic road guarded by British troops in their attempt to block the so-called “Taliban highway”.
But Cpt Michael Dobbin, who had given evidence at Monday's inquest, said the location of spent casings and damage to the sandbags on Guardsman Shadrake’s sanger were consistent with an attack from the southern side of the road.
Wing Commander Lee Taylor, part of the defence team which looks to learn lessons from attacks on British forces, said two key operational learning account and after action reviews (OLAARs) had been put in place as a result of the attack.
When setting up new TCPs, commanders would have to request permission from Brigadiers if they wanted them manned for more than 72 hours, meaning forces on the ground would be less likely to become tired.
The second direction was foliage and crops near bases would have to be cut in order to provide better visibility to troops.
Wing Commander Taylor added British commanders in Afghanistan often had to maintain a balancing act between not upsetting Afghan nationals, and providing safety for their soldiers.
In his closing comments, Mr Gittins paid tribute to the work done by Guardsman Shadrake and his colleagues, and thanked the family for their co-operation.
“Throughout the course of the past two days I have been provided with a reminder that so much of what I take for granted in my life, my own safety and the security of those I care for, is the product of the selfless professionalism and bravery of the likes of the servicemen who have attended the hearing and the undoubted heroism of Guardsman Shadrake and many others who have paid the ultimate price while serving.”
The coroner added there had been “discrepancies” in some of the evidence given, but this was no reflection on the witnesses, who had acted with “undoubted integrity”.
Mr Gittins told family members at the inquest: “There is so much to be proud of in Jamie’s life and his military career, and it is that sense of achievement and pride I hope will carry you forward after today.
“There is not, nor should there ever be, real closure, for the strength of character and the bravery of this young man will always be with you, and with all those who knew or served with him.”
SPEAKING after the inquest, Guardsman Jamie Shadrake’s mother Cathryn Griffiths gave a statement on behalf of the family.
Speaking while flanked by family members and colleagues of Guardsman Shadrake who gave evidence at the inquest, she said: “Jamie was a brilliant son, a tremendous brother and friend – always laughing and joking around, but he was a dedicated soldier and proud of his uniform.
“We believe Jamie would have gone far within the Army. He will never be forgotten and is loved and remembered every day. He is in our thoughts and our hearts.
“We believed in Jamie and in what he was doing in Afghanistan. I am so proud of my son and what he has achieved in his short life.
“As a family we are grateful for the help and support that we have received from the Grenadier Guards through this difficult time, and understand how difficult it has been for Jamie’s colleagues over the last couple of days.
“We would now appreciate if you would respect our privacy so we can reflect on what has happened and take the time to grieve.”
See full story in the Leader