The father of a North East soldier gunned down by a rogue member of the Afghan National Army while not wearing body armour has called for military chiefs to constantly review the threat posed by insider attacks on patrol bases.
Sapper Richard Reginald Walker, from Washington, was killed in a “green on blue” attack when an Afghan soldier opened fire at Patrol Base Hazrat in Helmand on January 7 this year.
The 23-year-old, of the 28 Engineer Regiment, was working to replace the camp’s large front gates with other engineers when the soldier began shooting rounds at them from an elevated vantage tower – known as a sangar. An inquest in Sunderland heard how Royal Marines and Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers shared the camp, but local forces were not allowed into the British side if they were armed.
The engineers working on the gates weren’t wearing body armour as the risk of working within the camp at the time was deemed to be low.
Sapper Walker’s father, Richard Boddy, said he hoped lessons could be learned from his son’s death.
Mr Boddy said: “I just hope that senior officers and Ministry of Defence (MoD) staff realise, as far as I’m concerned as a father, any position inside or outside camp still, to me, deems to be a threat area and should be looked at constantly.
“One would hope every effort in doing this is taken on a daily basis by the MoD.”
He added: “Every effort should be made to protect every soldier, whether an officer, engineer or marine.”
A review of the attack which killed Sapper Walker was undertaken by a specialist team including Wing Commander Lee Taylor who told the court that the threat of insider attacks arose in 2010, then doubled in 2011 and again in 2012.
He said procedures are constantly being reviewed and updated and the British-developed response to the threat has now been adopted by Nato as best practice.
“I would like to stress we need to learn from each and every incident. It is an insidious threat. You don’t know what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen,” he said. “This is one of those situations when the guys were working with their partners inside a base which was considered to be a safe location, and one individual was not a friend.”
The inquest heard how Sapper Walker and his colleagues were completing work on the base’s gates to reduce the size of the camp before it was handed over to the Afghan National Army. None of the troop were wearing armour, which was not unusual inside the base while undertaking physical work, when the rogue soldier opened fire at around 7.30pm.
Witnesses recall a burst of around 20 rounds raining down on them from a sangar at the camp. The shooter then got down from the raised position and walked towards the engineers continuing the gun fire.
When fellow Afghan soldiers challenged him, he fired at them, and Royal Marines in another sangar fired back once it was safe to do so without the risk of injuring others. He was eventually forced back towards the camp’s mortar pit, where he was killed. Sapper Walker – known affectionately as Richie by friends and family – was shot through the right shoulder during the second burst of gunfire and at least seven other Isaf (International Security Assistance Force) forces were shot but survived.
Sapper Walker was pulled to safety by Sergeant Jonathan Barton who heard him screaming that he had been shot in his arm. The father-of-one was lapsing in and out of consciousness before he was flown by helicopter to Camp Bastion where he was later pronounced dead.
Giving evidence at the inquest, MoD expert engineer Alan Hepper said even had Sapper Walker been wearing the standard issue armour it would not have prevented the injury caused by the gunshot.
Coroner Derek Winter concluded that Sapper Walker was unlawfully killed while on active service in Afghanistan.
Speaking after the inquest, Captain James Eadie, troop commander at the base that day, said: “My sincere condolences go out to Sapper Richard Walker’s family, especially his daughter Lilly-Faith, whom he spoke of highly throughout the tour.
“Richie was a professional and dedicated sapper with a larger than life personality.
“He worked extremely hard within the troop and formed many close friendships.”