Evidence at Suffolk soldier's inquest

SOLDIER Sharron Elliott and her army colleagues killed by a bomb on a boat were travelling on the river as it was “the safest means of travel” an inquest heard today.

SOLDIER Sharron Elliott and her army colleagues killed by a bomb on a boat were travelling on the river as it was “the safest means of travel” an inquest heard today.

The inquest into the death of staff sergeant Elliott, a 34-year-old former Hadleigh High School pupil, opened in Oxford today.

She was killed while serving in the Intelligence Corps, when her boat was hit by an explosive device on Remembrance Sunday last year during a patrol on the Shatt al-Arab waterway in Basra.

Her colleagues Lee Hopkins, of the Royal Corps of Signals, and marines Ben Nowak and Jason Hylton were also killed.

Captain Richard Morris, of 539 Assault Squadron, Royal Marines, said in evidence that this was the first since the March 2003 invasion in which coalition troops had been killed on a boat operating on waterways around Basra.

The officer, in charge of the boat group, was tasked with transporting military staff between Basra Palace and the Shatt al-Arab Hotel, two British bases.

Most Read

The known danger spot on the river route between the two locations was the narrow gap at the pontoon bridge where the bomb was detonated, he said.

But although vessels passing this point had been fired upon in the past, there had been no improvised explosive attacks or fatalities since UK troops arrived in March 2003 and began daily trips up and down the river by boat.

“Boats were the favoured way of moving along the waterway because at the time boats had never been targeted,” said Capt Morris.

“It was perceived to be the safest means of travel.”

He said that at the time other units were not able to spare men to provide security and cover for vessels passing under the bridge.

Following the deaths, resources were made available to secure the bridge. At this the coroner said: “So it takes four people to lose their lives before this can happen?”

“Sadly yes, that's right,” said Capt Morris.

“We had no intelligence beforehand that we were expecting an attack at this location on the river at this time.”

The inquest, at Oxford's Old Assizes, is being heard by Andrew Walker, deputy assistant coroner for Oxfordshire.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter