Soldier in play-fight tragedy at army barracks

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A rookie soldier died after a bout of ‘play-fighting’ with another squaddie at Lancaster’s Halton Barracks went tragically wrong, an inquest heard.

Private Steven Murray hit his head on a concrete floor and suffered a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain, coroner Dr James Adeley was told.

The 23-year-old, who had drunk half a bottle of vodka, was knocked out for around 10 minutes. Witnesses said he appeared “lucid” when he came round, but he was later found in a deep coma at the training barracks at Halton near Lancaster.

Consultant pathologist Professor Timothy Dawson said death had been caused by an acute bleed caused by blunt head trauma.

He told the inquest at Preston Coroners Court that Pte Murray had suffered a blow of “significant force.”

The injury had come during “playful rough and tumble” with another soldier. He said: “He fell backwards and hit his head on the floor, rendering himself unconscious for a time,

“After a while he felt fine, But then, as the evening went on, he began to deteriorate. At around 5am he was found collapsed and not breathing.”

The hearing, which started on Tuesday and is expected to last six days, heard Pte Murray, of the Royal Regiment of Scotland based at Catterick Camp in Yorkshire, was 11 weeks into his training in June 2010. The first seven weeks had been alcohol free, but the squaddies had then been allowed a few drinks. Consultant forensic toxicologist Julie Evans revealed Pte Murray’s blood-alcohol level could have been as much as two-and-three-quarter times the legal driving limit .

Mrs Evans said Pte Murray, from East Kilbride, Scotland, had only arrived at the Halton base on May 31 and the incident happened around 8.30pm on June 3 during a light-hearted play-fight.

She said the amount the soldier had drunk that night could have induced “marked drunkenness” in an average social drinker.

Consultant neurosurgeon Dr Gregory Hall from the Royal Preston Hospital said it appeared 6ft 1in Pte Murray sustained a head injury when another soldier “lifted and threw him in an attempt to extricate him from his grip.”

He was diagnosed as having an “unsurvivable” brain inury and was eventually certified dead two days later.