A NORTH-EAST soldier was shot dead by insurgents when he stopped to let Afghan police officers pray, an inquest heard yesterday.

Lance Corporal Jonathan McKinlay, 33, from Darlington, was shot through the neck while on patrol with 1st Battalion The Rifles in Afghanistan’s Helmand province on September 14, last year.

Yesterday’s inquest into his death was told he died instantly from “unsurvivable”


L Cpl McKinlay was one of 12 British soldiers on patrol with three Afghan National Police officers and an interpreter, who were ambushed by two groups of insurgents at about 6pm.

The soldiers were about 90 minutes into the patrol and had stopped in a garden having changed route to avoid a potential ambush point.

Navy doctor Stuart Freeman, who was attached to The Rifles at the time, said L Cpl McKinlay was in a field with the Afghan police, who had decided to pray.

He told coroner Andrew Tweddle: “I believe he had his compass out.”

He agreed with the coroner when asked: “Was he trying to help them find out which way to point (to pray)?”

Serjeant Christopher Wainwright said at the time he was happy that all the men were in a safe place.

“Then we came under heavy fire,” he said. “As I turned round I could see two of our men laid in the ditch – one was our interpreter and the other was Jon. I knew Jon was a serious casualty.”

A seven-minute gun battle then took place, and it was only after the bullets eased that Sjt Wainwright could pull L Cpl McKinlay from the ditch.

By the time Leading Medical Assistant Freeman reached him, he was dead.

Pathologist Dr Russell Delaney found later that his injuries – two gunshot wounds, one to the neck and one to the leg – were “unsurvivable”.

His statement said: “There was nothing his colleagues or combat mates could have done to save his life.”

The interpreter’s injuries were not life-threatening.

L Cpl McKinlay, who was based at Checkpoint Chaabak, in Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand, when he died, was serving his second tour of Afghanistan with The Rifles.

His widow, Lisa McKinlay, attended yesterday’s hearing at Chester-le-Street Magistrates’ Court along with members of her husband’s family.

L Cpl McKinlay’s mother, Valerie, thanked his comrades for their efforts to reach her son while under fire.

Mr Tweddle recorded a narrative verdict that: “Lance Corporal McKinlay was shot by insurgents when in active military service in Afghanistan.”

L Cpl McKinlay, who joined the Army in 1996, was deployed to Afghanistan last June.

He had also served in Northern Ireland and Iraq and left behind daughter Megan and stepchildren Ollie and Piper.