War hero ‘unlawfully killed’

The funeral of Sgt Nigel Coupe (below) and Natalie Coupe (bottom) today backed the coroner's verdict that he was 'unlawfully killed'.
The funeral of Sgt Nigel Coupe (below) and Natalie Coupe (bottom) today backed the coroner's verdict that he was 'unlawfully killed'.
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The widow of a Fylde war hero blown up in a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan today backed a coroner’s ruling her husband was “unlawfully killed.”

Father-of-two Sgt Nigel Coupe, 33, from St Annes, was killed along with five other soldiers when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated under their Warrior in Helmand Province on March 6 2012.

Sgt Nigel Coupe

Sgt Nigel Coupe

A coroner yesterday ruled they had been “unlawfully killed” when they were hit while on patrol 25 miles north of Lashkar Gah.

Today, Natalie Coupe, 29, spoke out after the inquest at Oxford Coroner’s Court heard that no other vehicle of its type was designed to withstand a blast of its type.

She said: “It’s a large sense of relief now it’s over.

“It will bring some closure to everything now because I’ve had this hanging over me for the last 18 months and I’m glad it’s finished.

Natalie Coupe today backed the coroner's verdict that he was 'unlawfully killed'.

Natalie Coupe today backed the coroner's verdict that he was 'unlawfully killed'.

“My daughters still don’t know the full story because I’ve protected them from it and I want to keep it that way as it’s been bad enough for them. I just think it (his death) was bad luck and there was nothing that could be done.

Giving a narrative verdict, Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter said: “This of course is a tragic loss of these six soldiers and these young lives.

“At least it is very clear from the evidence of the two pathologists and the evidence of those who witnessed the strike that they did not suffer.

“It also follows that there was nothing that their comrades could have done to rescue or save them.”

Mrs Coupe added: “I thought what the coroner said was right and fair, and it was what we expected.”

Sgt Coupe, a member of 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, and his comrades, all members of the Yorkshire Regiment’s 3rd Battalion, died of blast injuries caused by the explosion.

The inquest heard improvements have been made to Warriors since the incident including better armour, burst resistant fuel tanks, better ways of getting in and out in emergencies and improved fire detection and protection systems. The court was told that eight new fuel tanks have been fitted so far to the vehicles that are being used in Afghanistan, with 21 more due to have the upgrade, and the coroner said that “significant steps” had been completed in making improvements to the vehicles and there was no need for a formal report under his powers because he was satisfied the areas of concern had been addressed.

Father-of-two Sgt Coupe, Pte Wade, from Warrington, Cheshire, who was about to become a father; Cpl Hartley, from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire; Pte Frampton and Pte Wilford, both from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire; and Pte Kershaw, from Bradford, had all been in Afghanistan for only a few weeks when they were killed. The soldiers were either killed or knocked unconscious by the huge blast, the inquest heard.

The force of the explosion turned the Warrior on to its side and “flicked off” its turret, with a fire breaking out almost instantly, which then went on to set off ammunition inside.

Fellow soldiers struggled to extinguish the blaze and get into the stricken Warrior, but everyone inside was dead.

The inquest heard that improvements have been made to Warriors since the tragedy, but no vehicle of its type used by the British Army at the time was designed to take a blast like that.

‘No vehicle designed to take a blast like that’

The inquest heard that improvements have been made to Warriors since the tragedy, but no vehicle of its type used by the British Army at the time was designed to take a blast like that.

Major Douglas Nelson, an expert on the Warrior, said insurgents could “always build a bigger bomb”.

But he said improvements had been made since last March including thicker armour; a burst resistant fuel tank; improvements to ways of getting out in an emergency; and better firefighting and detection systems.

“This was a very large device and what I would say is no vehicle that we had was designed to take that,” he told the inquest.

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