New kit would not have saved soldier, inquest told

A TERITORIAL Army soldier shot dead in Afghanistan days after criticising a lack of updated body armour would not have been saved by the new kit, an inquest heard on Monday, June 14.

A TERITORIAL Army soldier shot dead in Afghanistan days after criticising a lack of updated body armour would not have been saved by the new kit, an inquest heard on Monday (June 14).

Rifleman Andrew Fentiman, 23, died while on foot patrol in the Sangin area of Helmand province on November 15 last year after coming under fire from insurgents.

Eleven days before his death the graduate who worked as regional sales manager for Team Studio Ltd, a software company based at Hinchingbrooke Business Park, complained in a blog that he was still waiting for new equipment.

On November 4 he wrote an entry informing former colleagues he had arrived in Helmand and was “still waiting for the new body armour and helmets that were promised to us”.

The Ministry of Defence announced in September 2009 that 5,000 new Osprey Assault body armour and adapted Mark 7 helmets were being shipped to Afghanistan.

However, an inquest at Huntingdon Law Courts heard how the updated armour could not have stopped the bullet.

Most Read

The round punctured his left shoulder before entering his chest and exiting beneath his right armpit.

Rifleman Fentiman, who lived in Oakington, was killed instantly.

Alan Hepper, principal engineer at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, demonstrated the two types of body armour to the inquest.

He said: “If Rifleman Fentiman had been wearing the new body armour the result would have been exactly the same.”

The inquest heard how Rifleman Fentiman had been on a reconnaissance patrol with members of One Platoon A Company of the 3rd Battalion Rifles when they were attacked.

They were trying to establish a suitable location for a new patrol base in the ‘Green Zone’, an area of farmland frequently used by insurgents on their way to attack Sangin.

Corporal Philip Cree, section commander of One Platoon A Company, described how Rifleman Fentiman was part of two patrols of 10 to 12 soldiers who left the main base in Charda at first light on November 15.

They were ambushed at about 10.30am by insurgents hiding in compounds surrounded by trees.

“I heard two short bursts of gunfire. Everyone hit the deck immediately. I was facing Rifleman Fentiman, he had turned towards me and dropped to the floor,” said Cpl Cree. “I crawled straight over to him and was trying to see where he had been hit. We cut all his kit off and found the entry would between the shoulder and pectoral.

“There was no blood coming from it but I put my ear to his chest and could hear air coming out so we knew there was a sucking chest wound. We continued with CPR and a I believe we did everything we could to try and save him.”

Company commander Major Timothy Harris said the reconnaissance collected enabled the troops to establish a patrol base in the area. He stressed Rifleman Fentiman’s death had not been in vain.

After the inquest his parents Lynda and Kevin Fentiman, and former girlfriend Jo said: “Although devastated by his loss, we are immensely proud of our beloved son, Andrew. We are confident that no practical body armour would have provided him with any more protection, thus preventing his death, which was mercifully probably instantaneous.

“We will always honour his memory.”