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A Royal Marine from Dorset was shot dead in a fierce firefight while saving the lives of his comrades during a special forces mission, an inquest heard.
Corporal Seth Stephens received a posthumous Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, second only to the Victoria Cross, for selfless bravery while in Haji Wakil in south Helmand on July 1 last year.
The 42-year-old is understood to have been a member of the Special Boat Service, the naval equivalent of the SAS, when he died.
The hearing in Bournemouth heard that the married father of two was airlifted into the operation by Chinook as part of an international force.
Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Kemp told the inquest the NCO helped plan the operation and was ''widely experienced and respected''.
Cpl Stephen's group got involved in heavy fighting as it tried to clear a compound next to an orchard.
Lt-Col Kemp went on:
''Amidst this heavy fighting, Cpl Stephens used a scaling ladder to see over the wall, which was about 9ft high, to enable him to provide covering fire to support the group in the orchard.''
At this point an unnamed colleague was shot by an insurgent who would also have been able to see Cpl Stephens. Comrades tried to warn him but he was found slumped at the bottom of the ladder, killed by a single gunshot wound to the back of his head, the hearing was told.
Bournemouth, Poole and East Dorset coroner Sheriff Payne recorded a verdict of unlawful killing while on active service.
In a statement after the inquest, Cpl Stephens's widow Karen said the couple's two daughters Heather and Molly were devastated by the death of their father, which had occurred just before their 20th wedding anniversary.