SAS selections inquest: Soldier found 'with rigor mortis'

Cpl James Dunsby, L/Cpl Edward Maher and L/Cpl Craig Roberts Image copyright MOD/PA
Image caption Cpl James Dunsby, L/Cpl Edward Maher and L/Cpl Craig Roberts took part in the exercise in 2013

One of the three soldiers who died during an SAS reservist selection hike had rigor mortis by the time he was found, an inquest has heard.

L/Cpl Craig Roberts, 24, died during a Brecon Beacons march on one of the hottest days of the year in July 2013.

L/Cpl Edward Maher and Cpl James Dunsby also died after collapsing while attempting the same exercise.

On Friday, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) also admitted its searching of bins at the inquest was "unacceptable".

Louise Hunt, senior coroner for Birmingham, has been hearing evidence relating to the deaths of the three soldiers, in Solihull, West Midlands, since 1 June.

'Hadn't noticed'

An officer in charge of the SAS reservist selection process on 13 July said he had not spotted L/Cpl Maher was no longer moving for at least 44 minutes.

This was because he had not "hovered the mouse (cursor)" over the reservist's GPS tracker, while monitoring participants' movements on a computer.

Doing so would have presented detailed information on his route times and distance travelled, he told the inquest.

The coroner said: "It is quite difficult for me to understand how you wouldn't notice.

Image caption The exercise was carried out on the Brecon Beacons on one of the hottest days of 2013

"When Edward was found, there were signs that he was already developing rigor mortis."

The officer replied: "At the time, I hadn't noticed that that tracker was static."

Earlier on Friday, David Turner QC - representing Cpl Dunsby's widow, Bryher Dunsby - said her confidence in the legal process had been "severely shaken" by revelations about the MoD's conduct during the hearing.

"The MoD has been going through confidential waste bins in the building," he said.

'Security arrangement'

Mr Turner said Cpl Dunsby's family were "extremely upset" by the MoD's actions.

Jonathan Hall QC, for the MoD, accepted his clients had sifted through waste bins and agreed it was "unacceptable".

"It had to do with the security arrangement - we're dealing with documents at a very high classification... it was in order to secure those documents... but it was done in a way that was not correct.

Image copyright Dyfed-Powys Police
Image caption Tracking data of the route taken by L/Cpl Edward Maher during the SAS reservist selection exercise

"I do want to reassure you publicly that this was not a sinister development," he told the coroner.

The coroner said there may have been no sinister intent, but the practice could affect perceptions about the hearing.

"This is to be an open and transparent inquest. Whatever the outcome, these families should go away thinking... they've heard the answers," she added.

The coroner said she was "perturbed" a witness had been referring to documents in the witness box without her knowledge - something she has now banned.

L/Cpl Roberts, from Penrhyn Bay, Conwy, and L/Cpl Maher, 31, died on 13 July 2013. Cpl James Dunsby, from Bath, died later in hospital.

On Thursday, the coroner was told the selection exercise had no medics or instructors for "over an hour" at one of the checkpoints.

The inquest continues.

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