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Padiham family of murdered soldier learns inquest verdict
12:00pm Saturday 7th September 2013 in News
THE Padiham-based family of a British sergeant who was gunned down by a rogue Afghan policeman has heard how he was ‘unlawfully killed’.
An Oxford inquest heard there was no apparent reason why the man opened fire on Sgt Gareth Thursby, 29, and Private Thomas Wroe, 18, at a checkpoint in Helmand Province in September 2012.
The soldiers, both members of the 3rd Battallion, Yorkshire Regiment, died from gunshot wounds after the attack by the Afghan Local Police.
Sgt Thursby’s mother Caroline Whittaker and stepfather Brian live in Victoria Road, Padiham.
Oxfordshire assistant coroner Alison Thompson was told a third soldier was also injured after being shot several times in the incident.
The incident was the latest in a series of ‘green-on-blue’ attacks by the Afghan security forces on British troops - it mirrored the March 2012 fatal shooting of Lance Corporal Michael Foley, who was killed in Helmand by a local soldier.
Recording a verdict of unlawful killing on Sgt Thursby and Private Wroe, the coroner said: “It is often difficult if not impossible to establish motivation in this sort of case, making it especially hard for families to come to terms with the death.
“And I am sorry that I am not going to be in a position today to provide a reason for this appalling attack as I have heard no evidence as to why it took place and therefore it would be wrong and improper for me to speculate in any way."
The inquest heard the Afghan policeman was visiting Tora checkpoint, in Nahr-e Saraj, when he opened fire.
He was well-known to soldiers there, the inquest heard, and was known to be ‘pro-ISAF’ (International Security Assistance Force)’ and a ‘champion of the partnership’ with the coalition.
The man, known as Gul Agha, had been laughing and joking with soldiers at the checkpoint before he turned his AK-47 on them.
He was shot dead by fellow troops, who attempted to administer first aid to Sgt Thursby, from Skipton, and Pte Wroe, of Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, but they could not be saved.
In the wake of Sgt Thursby’s death, his mother, alongside 18 friends and family members, tackled the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge last April in his memory.
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