Inquest Into Death Of Geologist

A Portsmouth man was given "sub-standard'' security when he was shot dead while carrying out surveys for a petrol company in a dangerous area of Ethiopia, an inquest heard today.

39-year-old Jason Read was killed on April 5 last year when his car was ambushed near Danot town in the conflict-ravaged Ogaden region in the south east of the country.

He worked for Tesla IMC Geophysics International, which was subcontracted to the Malaysian oil giant Petronas, when his vehicle was ambushed.

Mr Read was well-known in the Portsmouth area as Justin Packham before he changed his name approximately 15 years ago.

Mr Read had worked for Tesla since 2004, working in Ethiopia, Uganda and Europe.

The inquest heard that Mr Read had been working as a trouble-shooter for the survey which involved measuring vibrations in the ground.

Ian Angus, corporate health, safety and environment manager for IMS, said that the entire operation was being protected by 400 soldiers provided by the Ethiopian military.

But while the actual survey group had approximately 75 soldiers, Mr Read was accompanied by a driver and a single soldier in his pick-up truck.

Mr Angus said that it was believed that the vehicle was ambushed by a gang of two or three men, probably armed with AK-47 automatic rifles.

Mr Read was hit by two bullets, one which hit the rear of his knee and the second which went through his back, between the shoulders, breaking ribs and badly damaging his left lung.

The driver and soldier survived but with serious injuries, the inquest heard.

Describing the incident, Mr Angus said:

"As the vehicle was moving off, shots were fired as the driver was in first gear, then he was in second gear when the vehicle was under proper fire.

"The soldier was crouching in the bed of the truck and he threw a grenade to where the gunfire was coming from.

"The soldier is shot in the left leg, falls from the rear of the vehicle and manages to crawl to the bushes.

"The driver is hit in the legs, ankles and hips and is unable to control the vehicle, the key had been sheared by one of the rounds as well.

"The vehicle came to a halt but the driver is unable to get out.

"Jason gets out of the vehicle, stumbles a few paces and falls to the ground.''

By the time the rest of the survey crew and medical staff arrive at the scene, Mr Read had died.

Detective Inspector Dave Smith, who investigated the death for Hampshire police and who had previously served in an infantry division of the army, said that the attack had the hallmarks of a "classic ambush'' that would have been over in "less than half a minute''.

A post-mortem examination carried out by Home Office pathologist Dr Basil Purdue in the UK showed Mr Read died of gunshot wounds.