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Thursday, 18 September 2014

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Navy officer tried to tackle his killer

A ROYAL Navy officer was shot in the head as he attempted to tackle a junior rating who went on a murderous rampage onboard a Barrow-built nuclear-powered submarine, an inquest has heard.

Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux would have fallen unconscious immediately after he suffered the gunshot wound in the incident on HMS Astute while it was docked at Southampton, Hampshire, on April 8 2011, the inquest heard.

Lt Cdr Molyneux had transferred to the submarine from his former posting with another sub in Barrow.

He lived with his wife and four children in Wigan but had naval digs in Furness and was well known in Barrow for his work on both the Ambush and Astute boats.

Able seaman Ryan Donovan, 23, was jailed for life to serve a minimum of 25 years after pleading guilty at Winchester Crown Court to the murder of Lt Cdr Molyneux.

The navigator yeoman also pleaded guilty to attempting to murder Lieutenant Commander Christopher Hodge, 45, who he shot in the stomach.

The crown court heard that his real targets, who he also admitted to attempting to murder, were Petty Officer Christopher Brown, 36, and Chief Petty Officer David McCoy, 37.

Donovan’s attack was only stopped when the leader of Southampton City Council, Royston Smith, and its chief executive, Alistair Neill, heroically wrestled the weapon from him.

The inquest which resumed at Southampton yesterday heard that Lt Cdr Molyneux, 36, suffered a single gunshot wound to the top of his head, six inches above his right earhole.

Home Office pathologist Dr Basil Purdue said: “It would have caused instantaneous unconsciousness followed very, very shortly by death.

“The lieutenant commander would have known nothing about it.”

Dr Purdue said that the position in which Lt Cdr Molyneux was found lying face down on the floor was consistent with him rushing forward to tackle the gunman.

He added that, at 6ft 2ins, Lt Cdr Molyneux was a tall man and would have had to lower his head forward in order to suffer the injury to the top of his head.

He said: “It’s not an unreasonable presumption that he’s throwing himself, rushing forwards, moving towards him with his head down.”

Dr Purdue added that because of gunpowder residue found on the injury, it would have been suffered at very close range.

A total of seven shots were fired during the incident, the inquest heard.

The crown court sentencing hearing was told that Lt Cdr Molyneux, a father-of-four, known as Molly, had bravely tried to tackle Donovan after hearing previous shots from the SA80 gun.

His widow Gillian, who attended yesterday’s hearing, has said previously that nothing could ever replace her soulmate and father of Jamie, Arron, Bethany and Charlie and “the heartbreaking sadness for the loss of Ian”.

Donovan had been drinking while ashore and had volunteered for guard duty when onboard, because he admitted he was intent on killing the two petty officers who had reported him for disobeying a direct order to clean a part of the sub.

Donovan had been told he would not be leaving the sub for an attachment on another vessel because of his behaviour, and he had anger towards them, the crown court heard.

The amateur rapper, who called himself Reggie Moondog, was given the weapon and 30 rounds by PO Brown.

He turned the gun on him and CPO McCoy but the men dived for cover or fled.

Then weapons officer Lt Cdr Molyneaux, whom Donovan had no grudge against, turned up and a witness heard him say “What have you done?” seconds before he was shot.

The crown court heard that Donovan then moved into HMS Astute’s control room which was full of local dignitaries visiting the vessel on a five-day goodwill visit to Southampton’s Eastern Docks.

Horrified onlookers saw Donovan come with the gun at waist height and shoot Lt Cdr Hodge with a “wild” expression on his face. Donovan was then wrestled to the ground by Mr Smith and Mr Neill and the gun went off harmlessly for the seventh time during the struggle.

Sentencing, Mr Justice Field called the shootings a “murderous onslaught”.

The inquest, which is being heard by a jury, was adjourned until today.

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