Officer dived for cover as sailor started shooting

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A ROYAL Navy chief petty officer told an inquest how he jumped to safety between decks as a gunman came towards him “squeezing the trigger” on a murderous rampage on board a nuclear-powered submarine.

Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux was killed by Able Seaman Ryan Donovan on board HMS Astute while it was docked at Southampton on April 8, 2011.

The 23-year-old was jailed for life with a minimum tariff of 25 years after pleading guilty at Winchester Crown Court to the murder of Lt Cdr Molyneux.

The navigator yeoman also pleaded guilty to attempting to murder Lieutenant Commander Christopher Hodge, 45, whom he shot in the stomach.

The court heard that his real targets, whom he also admitted to attempting to murder, were Petty Officer Christopher Brown, 36, and Chief Petty Officer David McCoy, 37.

CPO McCoy told the inquest at Southampton that he believed he had a good working relationship with Donovan but following a recent disciplinary action over a cleaning task, this relationship changed.

Richard Wilkinson, counsel for Lt Cdr Molyneux’s family, said four other sailors said that Donovan did not get on with CPO McCoy and PO Brown and a previous captain said they had “rode him hard”.

Donovan was facing disciplinary procedures for disobeying orders and a transfer for an operational tour on RFA Cardigan Bay was cancelled, the inquest heard.

CPO McCoy said: “In his eyes, when he saw me and Brown we were the bad guys, the ones who stopped him going on his operational tour.”

CPO McCoy, who previously gave Donovan a positive career progression report, said: “He had the potential to do well.”

He described how he witnessed Donovan being issued the weapon by PO Brown before the shooting incident. But he said he was unaware that Donovan was under the influence of alcohol at the time.

Toxicology tests showed that Donovan would have had a blood/alcohol level 76 per cent above the drink-drive limit, the inquest heard.

Donovan consumed 20 pints of beer and cider as well as four mojito cocktails, two bottles of beer and three double vodkas during the previous two days.

Describing the shooting, CPO McCoy told how he saw Donovan coming towards him firing the SA80 rifle.

He believed Donovan was shooting at him and jumped straight down a ladder hole connecting decks, he said.

“I saw smoke coming out of the barrel. He was 10ft away, squeezing the trigger. I took a leap down a ladder to the lower deck.”

He said he then shouted: “He’s gone mad with a gun, get out of the way.”

The inquest has heard that Donovan was eventually wrestled to the ground in the control room by Royston Smith, leader of Southampton City Council at the time, who was visiting the submarine with other dignitaries and members of the public. A school party had just left the submarine when the shooting happened.

Lt Cdr Molyneux, 36, suffered a single gunshot wound to the top of his head fired at close range.

Home Office pathologist Dr Basil Purdue said the position in which he was found, lying face down on the floor, was consistent with him rushing forward to tackle the gunman.

A total of seven shots were fired, the inquest heard.

PO Brown told the inquest that the weapon handover to Donovan, who went by a nickname of Reggie Moondogg, had been straightforward with the shooting starting straight afterwards.

He described how he dived to safety behind a locker when he saw Donovan walking towards him. He said: “A shot went off and as he turned round he had removed the rifle from the high-point position across his chest and he was shooting from the hip.

“The first round he fired went straight past my nose, I do not remember hearing anything, it was like a wasp flying past your head,” he said.

“As it hit the bulkhead a big spark went off. I then saw AB Donovan standing there, he was about 10 paces away, the rifle was still at his hip, smoke was coming out of the barrel, he began shooting again and that’s when I dived for cover.”

He added: “I thought he was coming for me, I picked up a grill from a hatch and I was going to smash him in the face with that but he never came.”

The inquest continues.