Navy officer was shot in head as he tried to tackle gunman on board HMS Astute, inquest told

HMS Astute pictured leaving Southampton Docks where Lt Cdr Molyneux was shot and killed
HMS Astute pictured leaving Southampton Docks where Lt Cdr Molyneux was shot and killed
Share this article
Have your say

A ROYAL Navy officer was shot in the head as he attempted to tackle a junior rating who went on a murderous rampage onboard a nuclear-powered submarine, an inquest has heard.

• Ryan Donovan killed Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux and injured three others in a gun rampage

Lt Cdr Molyneux

Lt Cdr Molyneux

• Attack stopped when Southampton City Council Leader and Chief Executive wrestled weapon from Donovan

• Lt Cdr Molyneux would have fallen unconscious after being shot in head, inquest hears

Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux would have fallen unconscious immediately after he suffered the gunshot wound in the incident on HMS Astute while it was docked at Southampton, Hampshire, on 8 April 2011, the inquest heard.

Able seaman Ryan Donovan, 23, was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 25 years after pleading guilty at Winchester Crown Court to the murder of Lt-Cmdr Molyneux.

The navigator yeoman also pleaded guilty to attempting to murder Lt-Cmdr Christopher Hodge, 45, whom he shot in the stomach.

The crown court heard that his real targets, whom he also admitted to attempting to murder, were Petty Officer Christopher Brown, 36, and Chief Petty Officer David McCoy, 37.

Donovan’s attack was only stopped when the leader of Southampton City Council, Royston Smith, and its chief executive, Scotsman Alistair Neill, wrestled the weapon from him.

The inquest, which resumed at Southampton yesterday, heard that Lt-Cdr Molyneux, 36, suffered a single gunshot wound to the top of his head, six inches above his right earhole. Home Office pathologist Dr Basil Purdue said: “It would have caused instantaneous unconsciousness followed very, very shortly by death.

“The lieutenant commander would have known nothing about it.”

The inquest heard that Lt-Cmdr Molyneux was heard to be breathing, making a “snoring” sound, as he lay on the floor after being shot.

Dr Purdue said: “It’s upsetting and emotionally distressing that someone horribly injured is still breathing but they are beyond help at that stage.

“As soon as he received that wound, he would have been out of it completely.”

Dr Purdue added that because of gunpowder residue found on the injury, it would have been suffered at very close range.

Mark Mastaglio, a forensic firearms expert, said that from tests to replicate the residue, the shot would have been fired 5cm from the wound and the rifle would have been fired from waist level.

He said that the weapon used was an SA80 military high velocity rifle which fires rounds at 940 metres per second and when in automatic mode can fire 800 rounds a minute.

A total of seven shots were fired during the incident, the inquest heard.

The crown court sentencing hearing was told that Lt-Cmdr Molyneux, a father-of-four, known as Molly, had bravely tried to tackle Donovan after hearing previous shots from the SA80.

His widow Gillian, who attended the hearing, has said nothing could ever replace her soulmate and father of Jamie, Arron, Bethany and Charlie and spoke of “the heartbreaking sadness for the loss of Ian”.

Sentencing, Mr Justice Field called the shootings a “murderous onslaught”.

The inquest continues today.