Mum of killed Sunderland soldier demands better equipment to protect frontline troops

Kathryn Walker
Kathryn Walker
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A MUM left heartbroken by the death of her soldier son in Afghanistan today demanded better equipment to protect his colleagues on the frontline.

Sapper Richard Walker was just 23 when he was killed in a green-on-blue attack in the war-torn country.

Sapper Richard Walker

Sapper Richard Walker

As an inquest into the soldier’s death yesterday heard how he was shot as he worked in the Nahr-e Saraj area of Helmand.

Kathryn Walker, 46, told how this week she visited her son’s graveside and got to meet the daughter Richard never saw.

The Washington mum said: “Bella Mai was born five months ago. I know my son would have been devastated he never got to see her. But we’ll make sure she grows up knowing who her daddy was.”

The inquest at Sunderland Coroner’s Court heard how Sapper Walker was killed by a rogue Afghan gunman.

The former Washington School pupil had been working in darkness, without body armour, to dismantle the main gate at a patrol base.

The inquest heard the soldiers were helping make Patrol Base Hazrat smaller, in preparation for it being handed over to the Afghan National Army.

But they were forced to scramble for cover after the man turned his gun on the soldiers, during the attack on January 6.

Despite the brave efforts of his colleagues, Sapper Walker, known as Richie, suffered fatal injuries to his shoulder and abdomen.

He pronounced dead after being air-lifted to Camp Bastion.

As well as Bella Main, the soldier, of Blackfell, also leaves behind daughter Lilly-Faith, two.

None of eight who where hurt were wearing Osprey body armour, because of the heavy lifting they were doing and that the base was considered as low-risk.

But Ministry of Defence expert Alan Hepper told the inquest that he did not believe the 13kg protective layers would have saved the 23-year-old.

“The heavy armour would have not overlain the entry wound. The soft armour would have slowed the round down a bit, but it would have still got through the soft armour and caused some very serious injuries,” he said.

Sergeant Jonathan Barton, who was a corporal at the time, battled in vain to save Sapper Walker.

He said: “I remember hearing a second burst of about six rounds and Sapper Walker shouting in pain and saying ‘I have been shot in the arm’.

“I started pulling a couple of people into the sangar and Richie was going to be next.

“That is when he started screaming.”

He added: “I told him to get up and get into the sangar and as he stood up, he collapsed.

“I carried him myself to the sangar.”

Speaking after the hearing, Kathryn, urged the Ministry of Defence to better protect those fighting for their country.

She said: “They should have better protection, they are not working with the best equipment and that equipment could save their lives.

“They say it would not have made a difference to Richie, but that’s not to save it won’t save lives in the future.

“These lads aren’t being protected properly. Surely, this is the least we owe them.”

Kathryn travelled to Catterick on Monday with members of her family where she got a chance to spend time at her son’s graveside and talk with his colleagues.

Speaking after the hearing, Captain James Eadie said Richie was “sorely missed” by those he served with.

“He was a professional and dedicated sapper with a larger-than-life personality.”

“We will always remember him,” he added.

Coroner Derek Winter concluded that Sapper Walker, of Stridingedge, Blackfell, had been unlawfully killed while on active service.

Twitter: @janethejourno