Inquest Into Hampshire Marine Death

The death of the 300th British serviceman killed in Afghanistan may have been caused when a watching insurgent detonated an explosive device, an inquest has heard.

Marine Richard Hollington, of 40 Commando Royal Marines, was injured in the blast in the Sangin district on June 12 last year but died from his wounds eight days later in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

An inquest into his death at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall heard that on the day of the explosion Marine Hollington, 23, was working as the second vallon operator in a patrol when the front man saw a "ground sign''.

Sergeant William Macfarlane told the hearing that the ground sign was a line of stones meaning that insurgents had probably been in the area and planted Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

The patrol was stopped and planned to turn away from the suspected area of threat, rather than continue towards it.

Sgt Macfarlane told the inquest many servicemen carry cameras on patrol to document significant moments of interest and, while he usually carried a camera, he had forgotten it for this patrol.

Marine Hollington, who was from Steep near Petersfield, and known to his colleagues as "Dickie'', was the closest man carrying a camera, he said, and brought it over to him so he could photograph the stones.

"Dickie walked back over towards me and he already had his camera out and he walked back up the safe line which he cleared,'' Sgt Macfarlane said.

"There's no way he stepped out of the safe line. He gave me his camera and then walked back the way he had come.

"At this point I was looking down at the camera and the explosion went off.''

Sgt Macfarlane said he briefly saw two men running from the area just after the explosion.

He also said he saw a wire sticking out of the crater caused by the explosion and that, coupled with the fact that Marine Hollington and the first vallon operator had made the area safe and did not detect any devices, led him to believe that a nearby insurgent had triggered the explosion.

"We believe that it was a command wire IED, which means that it was a device planted in the ground and somebody nearby, behind a wall or similar, has set it off.''

Immediately after the explosion Marine Hollington was treated at the scene before being taken back to the patrol base.

The Medical Emergency Response Team (Mert) helicopter flew him to Camp Bastion where he was operated on before being moved to Birmingham for further treatment.

The inquest also heard from Dr Nicholas Hunt, who said the cause of Marine Hollington's death was meningitis and contaminated blast fragment wounds to the pelvis.

The bacteria which caused the infection in the first instance was known as acinetobacter, Dr Hunt said, and led to a very serious infection which affected the covering of Marine Hollington's brain.

The inquest heard that it was not possible to know exactly when Marine Hollington developed the infection which led to him becoming seriously ill but Dr Susan Sinclair told the hearing it was known that he developed it very quickly.

The surgery he underwent in Birmingham was mainly for cleaning and control of his wounds, she said.

She also told the inquest that, as a result of the meningitis, Marine Hollington's brain had swelled.