Dereham soldier killed by ‘sharpshooter’, inquest hears

A single shot fired by an insurgent 'sharpshooter' killed two British soldiers, one of them from Dereham, an inquest heard today.

Private Lewis Hendry, of 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, and Private Conrad Lewis, of 4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment, were shot as they patrolled an area in the north of the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand Province on February 9.

An inquest in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, heard Ptes Hendry and Lewis were taking part in a joint foot patrol with the Afghan National Army when they came under fire.

The purpose of the patrol had been to find enemy firing points and to reassure the population in a small village.

The day before, another patrol had been engaged by accurate small arms fire from the same area.

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The men had left Checkpoint Qudrat, in the northern part of Nad-e Ali, on the morning of February 9 in the knowledge insurgents were aware of their patrol.

Sergeant Major Christopher Smith, of 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, led the patrol in an area which he said was 'probably one of the most dangerous places to go out'.

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The inquest heard the patrol left in a single-file formation with Pte Hendry and Pte Lewis at the front.

'We thought we were being watched as soon as we left the checkpoint,' Sgt Maj Smith said.

'A single round was shot from compound 31. It was quite accurate.'

The inquest heard the shot passed through the legs of one of the other members of the patrol. Following the shot, Sgt Maj Smith sent an initial contact report stating there were snipers in the area.

'The boys reacted, firing back. About five to six seconds after that the call came, man down,' Sgt Maj Smith told the inquest.

He said the time from the first shot to the second shot was only about 10 seconds.

The inquest heard the men were kneeling down behind a wall when the shot hit Pte Hendry in the head, exiting his body and then hitting Pte Lewis in the neck.

The men instantly received medical attention while the patrol continued to take fire.

The men were transported back to Checkpoint Qudrat by Jackal vehicle and were flown to Kandahar where there is a specialist neurosurgeon.

While Pte Hendry was initially conscious, his condition deteriorated on the flight. On arrival at Kandahar the men's treatment was stopped. They were both then flown to Camp Bastion where they were pronounced dead.

The family of Pte Lewis listened as coroner David Ridley recorded a verdict of unlawful killing. Pte Hendry's family had said the circumstances were still too 'raw'' to attend the inquest.

Mr Ridley said: 'Both Lewis and Conrad were seen to fall to the ground. Both had been hit by the same bullet. Lewis first sustained a gunshot wound to the head, the bullet then striking Conrad next to him in the neck. Both sustained an injury incompatible with life.

'I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that both Conrad and Lewis were the victims of a bullet fired from an insurgent weapon. Having heard the evidence, the most appropriate conclusion to record is that both Lewis Hendry and Conrad Lewis were unlawfully killed whilst on active service.''

Pte Hendry, who was born in Norwich but spent most of his life in Dereham, where he attended St Nicholas Junior School and Northgate High School, died just three days before his 21st birthday. He was said by his parents to have had a 'true heart of gold'' and a smile which 'lit up every room he walked into''.

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