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Gareth Thursby's mum hopes lessons have been learned
The mother of Skipton soldier Gareth Thursby, gunned down by a rogue Afghan policeman, says she hopes lessons have been learned from his death.
Sgt Thursby, 29, and colleague Private Thomas Wroe, 18, from Holmfirth, died of multiple gunshot wounds after the man – a member of the Afghan Local Police – suddenly opened fire on them at a checkpoint in Helmand Province on September 15 last year.
An inquest, held in Oxford on Thursday, ruled that the two solders, both from the 3rd Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, had been unlawfully killed.
Speaking afterwards, Gareth’s mother, Caroline Whitaker, said she hoped that action was taken to prevent similar incidents in the future.
“I just hope something changes and it doesn’t happen again,” said Mrs Whitaker. “I think Afghans should be disarmed before going into army camps.”
She has already spoken to military officials, who are investigating what can be learned from the men’s deaths.
Oxfordshire Assistant Coroner Alison Thompson said that, although there was no apparent motive for the Afghan man opening fire on British troops, there was no established link between him and the insurgency in Afghanistan.
The inquest heard that a third soldier was injured after being shot several times in the incident.
Recording a verdict of unlawful killing, Ms Thompson 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 to provide a reason for this appalling attack as I have heard no evidence as to why it took place."
The inquest heard that the Afghan local policeman was visiting the checkpoint, called Tora, in Nahr-e Saraj, from another one nearby when he opened fire.
He was well-known to the men there 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.
The inquest heard that Afghan security forces were required to make their weapons "safe" when entering the checkpoint, but did not have to unload or hand them in.
Lieutenant Callum Cameron, platoon commander of 3 Platoon, Alma Company, told the inquest all Afghan Local Police (ALP) visitors were checked and vouched for by colleagues before they were allowed into the checkpoint, and the man in question had been vouched for.
Soldiers from 3 Yorks who gave evidence to the inquest described their shock that the man, who was known to them, had turned on them.
As he sat at a table with the soldiers, he opened fire, injuring one private, killing Pte Wroe who was hit four times, missing two other soldiers, and then killing former South Craven School pupil Sgt Thursby, who was shot five times.
Fellow troops then shot Gul Agha dead.
Giving her verdict, the coroner said it was "impossible to entirely legislate" against the threat of insider attacks because of the importance of building relations.
She told the families: "I can only hope that by hearing from Gareth and Thomas's colleagues at least you know exactly what happened."
The inquest was also attended by the parents of Kingsman Ryan Ward, who shot the Afghan gunman dead, but later killed himself.
An inquest into the 20-year-old's death previously heard that he was found hanging at his family home the day after Sgt Thursby's funeral in Skipton.