SOUTH Yorkshire’s first Territorial Army soldier to be killed in Afghanistan was among troops lured to the site of a huge bomb planted by Taliban fighters, an inquest heard.
Private Matthew Thornton, aged 28, of Darton, Barnsley, who died in November last year, was described as a ‘clearly courageous and very special young man’ by Deputy Coroner Donald Coutts-Wood, who recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.
Pte Thornton, a factory worker in civilian life, was five weeks into a tour of duty in Helmand when he was the victim of a massive bomb blast, the hearing at Sheffield’s Medico Legal Centre was told.
Army colleagues told the hearing Pte Thornton was discovered 10 metres up a tree with catastrophic injuries.
A report by pathologist Dr Russell Delaney said: “There was nothing his colleagues or medics could have done to save his life.”
Dr Delaney said his death would have been instantaneous, and it was unlikely he would have suffered.
The inquest heard soldiers from First Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, with whom Pte Thornton was attached, had been patrolling north of Checkpoint Loy Mandeh, in Lashkar Gah, when he was killed on November 9, 2011. Capt Stephen Dando, commanding the patrol, said: “The first thing he said to me was: ‘Do you think we’re going to see something today?’”
Capt Dando described Pte Thornton, of Fourth Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, as a ‘cracking soldier who gave 100 per cent’.
Pte Thornton’s death happened when the patrol came under fire from grenades and small arms - and took cover in an area behind a wall where he stepped on a pressure plate-activated improvised explosive device.
Major Stephen Sutherland, a bomb disposal expert called to the scene in the aftermath, said: “The improvised explosive device had been placed in undergrowth beneath the wall and it could be the grenade rounds were thrown to push the soldiers into the area.
“The Taliban are very intuitive and tactically-astute. In the past, devices were two or three kilogrammes and we saw a lot of amputations. This was of more significant size. Insurgents are laying large devices to ensure they kill.”
* After the inquest Matthew’s dad Mick, mum Susan, brother Nathan and sister Sarah released a statement in tribute to him.
The statement read: “Matthew was proud to be part of the Yorkshire Regiment and he carried out his duties with the utmost professionalism. He was dedicated to serving his country as a soldier and believed they were making a difference. The work Matthew spoke about in the short time he had been there was that they had been involved in building bridges and schools.”
Matthew’s family have been heavily involved in fundraising since his death, collecting £17,000 for Help for Heroes - £8,500 of which was from a walk around the Barnsley boundary.
To donate visit www.justgiving.com/michael-thornton1.