Review troops' equipment, widow urges

The devastated widow of a soldier killed by a hidden bomb in Afghanistan has pleaded for the new coalition Government to review military equipment urgently to avoid further deaths.

Serjeant Paul McAleese, 29, son of SAS hero John McAleese, was killed by an improvised explosive device as he tried to recover a fallen comrade, an inquest heard.

Sjt McAleese, of 2nd Battalion The Rifles (2 Rifles), risked his own life to retrieve the body of Private Johnathon Young, 18, of 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, who died 30 minutes before him on the same perilous route in Sangin district, Helmand province.

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Wiltshire coroner David Ridley recorded a verdict of unlawful killing for both soldiers in Trowbridge Town Hall.

After the hearing, Sjt McAleese's widow Joanne McAleese called on Prime Minister David Cameron's new government to review military spending and resources.

She said: "As Mac's wife it's been very hard to hear some of the evidence today.

"In my opinion the device that killed Mac was impossible to detect with the equipment provided to our soldiers.

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"Many more soldiers have died since Mac's death in a very similar way. How can this be allowed to continue? I would like to call upon this new government to urgently review the equipment and the budget.

"Our soldiers fight every day in the difficult circumstances that we have heard about today. They deserve the very best."

The inquest heard that the explosive devices used to kill the men had a "low metal content" making them harder to detect and had never been found before in that area of operations.

Major Rupert Follett, officer commanding C Company, 2 Rifles, told the inquest military resources were being directed heavily towards Operation Panther's Claw, which was taking place at the time in another part of Helmand Province.

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The soldiers were involved in an operation to restrict Taliban movement along a route known as "Pharmacy Road" near Forward Operating Base (FOB) Wishton, on August 20 last year.

Maj Follett said the route was littered with deadly improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Pte Young, from Hull, and his platoon were using metal detectors to search an alleyway off Pharmacy Road, where troops intended to build a protective Hesco wall.

At roughly 7.30am Pte Young stood on an IED and was killed instantly, the inquest heard.

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Sjt McAleese, from Hereford, who commanded the Quick Reaction Force (QRF), leapt on to a quad bike and rushed to the scene.

Pte Young's body was potentially surrounded by more bombs so the men decided to recover him with a motorised winch on the quad bike.

Pte Young's mother Angela Fox fled from the coroner's court in tears as they described attaching the winch to her son.

Sjt McAleese was thrown by the second blast, which occurred at roughly 8am and broke the winch wire attached to Pte Young.

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Maj Follett added: "The second explosion knocked me off my feet. As the dust was settling I sent a contact report over the radio. There was lots of shouting of 'Mac, Mac, where's Mac?"'

He added: "He was blown eight metres and landed in an alleyway."

Both men were eventually returned to a forward operating base, where they were confirmed to be dead.

Maj Follett fought back tears as he paid tribute to Sjt McAleese, who he knew well. "He was an awesome soldier," he said.

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Dr Russell Delaney, a forensic pathologist, found the cause of death for both men to be blast injuries caused by an explosion.

Sjt McAleese's father, John McAleese, was at the centre of the dramatic raid that ended a siege on the Iranian Embassy, in London, in 1980.

Mr McAleese was not present at the hearing.

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