Liam Tasker: Scots dog handler death ruled unlawful
An inquest into the death of an Army dog handler in Afghanistan has ruled he was unlawfully killed.
The inquest heard Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, 26, from Kirkcaldy in Fife, was shot by insurgents and died "attached" to his dog.
L/Cpl Tasker was on patrol with springer spaniel Theo, who died of a seizure shortly afterwards.
The inquest in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, ruled that the bullet that killed him was from an insurgent weapon.
It heard that when medics went to help L/Cpl Tasker, the springer spaniel's lead had to be cut in order to provide medical attention.
Coroner David Ridley said: "My view, beyond reasonable doubt, is that the appropriate conclusion to record here is that Liam Tasker was unlawfully killed on active service while serving in Afghanistan."
L/Cpl Tasker was an Arms Explosive Search handler from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, 1st Military Working Dog Regiment.
On the day of his death he was attached to 2 Company, 1st Battalion Irish Guards as part of a mission to secure an area soldiers referred to as the "sharks fin" near the village of Shingazi.
L/Cpl Tasker's team came under fire from insurgents about an hour-and-a-half after leaving the base.
The inquest heard the soldiers "hit the floor" but L/Cpl Tasker was seen to fall to the ground, on top of his weapon.
He had been shot in the head.'Natural empathy with dogs'
L/Cpl Tasker was said to have a "natural empathy with dogs" and was described as a "rising star" within the Dog Training Group.
His family were presented with the Elizabeth Cross by the Princess Royal earlier this year.
Record-breaking Theo had been praised by the Ministry of Defence for making 14 finds of hidden bombs and weapons caches in just five months.
Speaking after the inquest L/Cpl Tasker's mother, Jane Duffy, said the fact her son and Theo had "worked together and died together" brought her some comfort from knowing they were "somewhere together now".
Major Ian Turner, Officer Commanding No 2 Company, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, told the inquest: "They were extremely brave and enthusiastic about the task and gave us the option to operate more aggressively."