A WHITBY soldier killed by a hidden bomb in Afghanistan was unlawfully killed, a coroner has ruled.
Craftsman Andrew Found (27) died instantly when he was hit by the improvised explosive device (IED) on 16 June last year while trying to recover a vehicle that had been damaged by an earlier blast.
His wife Samantha sobbed throughout the inquest held in Scarborough this week and his parents Alan and Jennifer wept as the verdict was announced by coroner Michael Oakley.
The hearing heard Craftsman Found, of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), was in a convoy of 24 vehicles which had completed an operation and was on its way back to base.
Under the instructions of Lt Alistair Reith the convoys split into two groups and his took a different route back to base than the one it had gone out on because the terrain had made the first journey difficult.
Lt Reith told the hearing the first of the 12 vehicles was hit by an IED and two soldiers in the vehicle were injured.
He arranged for them to be evacuated by helicopter and at that point requested a specialist team, known as Brimstone which has more sophisticated equipment, be drafted in to recover the stricken Warthog vehicle which had been left tilting at a 45 degree angle.
But because Lt Reith couldn’t confirm whether there were any more devices present his troop were told to recover the vehicle themselves.
Using vallons, which are like metal detectors, the area they were working was scoured for more devices but none were found. It was dad of two, Craftsman Found’s primary role to lead the recovery of vehicles and he was guiding another Warthog, being driven by Trooper Maniata Nakaralutu, towards the first one when the second blast happened.
Lt Reith told the inquest: “As the explosion happened I actually had my back to it. I turned around and saw that something had gone wrong.
“There was no movement, I saw the medic and the team move to his body to do CPR. They knelt and fairly quickly stood up - it was obvious, it was clear he was not alive. I am sorry.”
Trooper Nakaralutu added: “I could see nothing else, just dust. Due to the explosion I was a bit shocked inside the wagon. I could see blood stains on the front of the wagon - I realised something has happened, something has gone wrong, one of us has been blown up. I felt my hands and legs and knew it was him.”
The specialist Brimstone team was then called in and found two more devices which hadn’t been picked up by the vallon team.
The court heard the equipment the vallon team uses only picks up certain metal content and devices being employed by the enemy now are made with less metal or even plastic - making them harder to detect
Delivering his verdict Mr Oakley said: “There is absolutely no evidence that time was any constraint or proper operational directions were not being followed. It is clear that in the theatre of war, as this was, both sides become cleverer and cleverer and certainly the other side have got more clever with their explosive devices.
“These more sophisticated and far more difficult to detect devices very sadly led to the death of Andrew Found.”
After the hearing Craftsman Found’s brother Simon, himself an ex-serviceman, said: “There was nothing that could be done but it is better to hear it in words from the people that were there rather than read it on a bit of paper.
“It has been cat and mouse for years. They can get away with leaving a bomb in the road for years and if it goes off and kills someone that is a win for them.
“You sign up for the risks but you don’t expect it to happen to you or your family - it is very unlucky.”
Craftsman Found was given a full military funeral in Whitby attended by several hundred people who lined the streets to pay their respects.
On the same day that Craftsman Found’s inquest took place it was announced that six more soldiers had been killed in operations in Afghanistan.
Five were from the 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment and one from the Ist Battallion the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.