Pte Steven Murray inquest: 'Life could have been saved'

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A soldier died from a head injury after a "failure of communication" resulted in him not receiving treatment, a coroner has ruled.

Pte Steven Murray, 23, of East Kilbride, died after being injured at Lancaster's Halton Camp during a "play fight" in 2010.

Dr James Adeley told Preston Coroner's Court he died from a "slow intracranial bleed" and could have been saved if he had had treatment.

Dr Adeley recorded a narrative verdict.

He said there had been a "failure in communication between the recruits and the permanent staff which would have resulted in Steven's referral for treatment".

"I am prepared to find on the balance of probabilities [this] would have saved his life," he said.

A Ministry of Defence (MOD) spokesman said the Army had "learnt important lessons from this tragic incident".

'Good natured'

The Preston court heard that Pte Murray and another recruit had become involved in a play fight after they and their fellow recruits from the 1st Infantry Training Battalion, based in Catterick, had been drinking vodka in June 2010.

Dr Adeley said it was "uncertain how the play fight began but none of the witnesses indicated that it contained any malice or was conducted in anything other than good natured physical banter between two young men".

He said Pte Murray had been knocked unconscious for a few minutes after he lost his balance and fell backwards on to the floor.

After coming round, he was assessed by a pair of corporals, who, having been told there was no medic on the camp, decided not to ring for an ambulance.

After being questioned by a lieutenant about the incident, Pte Murray went to bed and was discovered in the early hours of the following morning "with minimal signs of life", Dr Adeley said.

He died in hospital within hours of being found.

'Chain of command'

Dr Adeley said he was "satisfied that neither bullying nor harassment played any part in the death".

However, he ruled that "although Steven's own stoicism provided inappropriate reassurance, the principal contributing factors to his death were inadequacies of orders as to the sources and provision of medical care, insufficient communication by the NCOs of a loss of consciousness... and failure of recruits to escalate developments after 10.15pm up the chain of command".

The MOD spokesman said the department's "thoughts are very much with the family and friends" of Pte Murray.

"This has been a difficult and distressing time for them, culminating in an inquest which has now concluded some three years after his death," he said.

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