Kent Soldier Inquest

Two military brothers listened to evidence today of the final moments of their sibling's life after he was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.

Rifleman Daniel Holkham, 19, died instantly after being caught by a blast detonated by a lone insurgent inside a car close to a marketplace in Sangin.

An inquest heard that Rfn Holkham, who served with 3rd Battalion The Rifles (3 Rifles), was at the head of his patrol when he was killed on March 27.

Listening to the evidence were his parents, Rodney and Tracy, and his two brothers, Matthew and Andrew, who were both serving with the same regiment at the time.

The original task for Rfn Holkham and his colleagues on the day of his killing was to shadow members of the Afghan National Army as they conducted vehicle checks.

But they were retasked to confirm a suspected improvised explosive device (IED) and put in place a cordon while other units were called in to deal with it.

Mid Kent and Medway Coroner Roger Sykes recorded a verdict of unlawful killing while on active service.

Turning to Rfn Holkham's parents, he said: ``Coroners are deeply aware of the risks to which those whose deaths they have to investigate are placed in the service of their country.

``I'm quite sure that you will have a great deal of pride in the service that your son provided his country.''

Rfn Holkham's parents and brothers left the hearing without commenting.

Rfn Holkham, from the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, and four other comrades were on foot returning to patrol base and walking about 5m apart in single file when a white estate car was spotted about 300m from them.

Lance Corporal Ryan Le Masurier told the inquest at County Hall, Maidstone, that the car was travelling on a track and moving west towards their patrol.

Initially there were no concerns about it because the track was regularly used by vehicles as people travelled in to visit the local bazaar, the inquest heard.

But the car swiftly picked up speed and when a colleague of Rfn Holkham raised his weapon, the insurgent detonated his fatal blast at about 12.25pm.

L/Cpl Le Masurier said: ``The vehicle kept coming. If Holkham felt a vehicle was suspicious he would stop them himself.

``But the vehicle didn't stop and it just spun in. It turned. It was about 20m to 25m away when it turned. I raised my weapon to shoot but then it exploded.''

The inquest was told that the driver had accelerated moments before the explosion from a speed of around 10mph to around 20mph.

Pathologist Dr Nicholas Hunt said in a statement that Rfn Holkham sustained extensive injuries particularly to his head and neck.

He recorded the cause of death as ``blast injuries caused by an explosion'' and said that protective gear worn by Rfn Holkham would not have saved him.

Dr Hunt said: ``He would have been rendered instantaneously dead. It is felt that there would have been nothing anyone around him could have done to have saved him.

``It is my opinion that the helmet and body armour would have made no difference to the outcome in this case.''

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