Brave Paddington soldier killed by single shot

‘Natural soldier’ Lance Corporal Tom Keogh died ‘doing his duty for his country’ in Afghanistan

A BRAVE Paddington soldier died from a single gun shot wound to the chest while fighting off insurgents in Afghanistan, an inquest heard on Tuesday.

Lance Corporal Tom Keogh, 24, from 4th Battalion the Rifles, was firing a machine gun from a patrol base in Sangin, Helmand Province, on the morning of March 7 when he was hit.

A single bullet passed between the two plates of his body armour, entering his chest and killing him almost instantly.

Westminster Coroner’s Court heard how Keogh had rushed to the grenade machine gun sangar when shots were fired at the base at about 9.45am. He was in a position to fire the gun to return enemy fire when Rifleman Adam Weaving, who was alongside him, shouted ‘man down’ to signal L/Cpl Keogh had been hit.

Medics and an emergency response team attempted resuscitation but he was later pronounced dead.

The inquest heard that the bullet which killed L/Cpl Keogh had come from the south-west – an unexpected direction when most gun fire was from the north.

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“It was my assessment that it was a complex attack from the insurgents,” said Lieutenant Jessie Leach. “They fired from the green zone in one direction. The grenade machine gun sangar was manned. Then we were immediately shot at from the south-west.”

He said at that stage, the sangar was not considered vulnerable from the south-west because it “had not been shot at before from that direction”.

Following the attack, the wall protecting the sangar was built up to the south-west and L/Cpl Keogh’s father Lawrence asked why the measure hadn’t already been taken.

“Why was it not fully fortified from the beginning?” he asked.

“I attach no blame to anyone, but if it was fortified the night after he was killed, could that not have been done before he was killed?”

Lt Leach said the soldiers had been in the process of building up the base but it was in the early stages. “It was a question of time. It was one of those jobs to be done in the pipeline in order of priority,” he said.

Coroner Dr Paul Knapman agreed that it had not previously been considered a threat, saying: “It’s very easy with the benefit of hindsight to look back but this a dramatic situation”.

L/Cpl Keogh enlisted in 2003 and returned as top student of 130 men on a pre-deployment course before travelling to Afghanistan.

Lt Leach paid tribute to him, saying: “It is sometimes tempting to get carried away in extolling the virtues of the fallen, but with Lance Corporal Tom Keogh there is no danger of drifting towards exaggeration.

“He was quite simply one of the very best of riflemen – a natural soldier who just got it.”

Recording a verdict of death on active service, Dr Knapman said: “What a tragedy. Here was a soldier of 24 years coming under fire in Afghanistan. He was killed by a single shot from the enemy.

“The family will know he died doing his duty for his country, and no doubt must take pride in that. My sympathy goes out to them.”

L/Cpl Keogh, who lived on the Hallfield Estate, leaves behind his mother and father, Marion and Lawrence, and his two brothers, Christopher and Michael.