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Navy widow backs breath test plans
A widow has welcomed a coroner recommending random breath testing for Royal Navy personnel following the shooting dead of her husband by a drunk naval rating on a nuclear-powered submarine.
Southampton coroner Keith Wiseman told the end of the inquest into the death of Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux that he would write to the Navy about implementing it.
Lt Cdr Molyneux, from Wigan, was murdered by Able Seaman Ryan Donovan, who was over the drink-drive limit and on guard duty on HMS Astute in April 2011. The hearing previously heard he had drunk 20 pints of cider and lager, cocktails and double vodkas in the 48 hours before he was put on a guard duty with the SA80 rifle.
Speaking outside court, Gillian Molyneux said her husband had given his life to protect the boat and its crew and stop Donovan's rampage and his death had left a "huge void", saying she said she was "heartened" the coroner would send her proposals to the Navy and she called for the service's own recommendations to be acted upon. "I can only hope that these recommendations will be fully implemented and improvements will become evident across the service and Ian's death will not be in vain," she added.
"My intention is not to put an end to sailors' 'run ashore' and I fully understand that many traditions are deeply embedded in naval life. My wish is to focus attention on the consumption of alcohol and the carrying out of safety critical duties."
During the two-week hearing much evidence was heard about the "binge-drinking culture" of the crew of HMS Astute while on shore leave during the goodwill visit to Southampton. Police investigating the murder were so concerned about crew being "drunk out of their minds" while ashore that the senior officer wrote to his chief constable to highlight the issue and it was passed to military authorities.
The Royal Navy has since tightened its rules on alcohol consumption before duty. At the time sailors were allowed 10 units in the previous 24 hours with no alcohol in the 10 hours before duty, which has now been changed to five units.
Mr Wiseman said the seven shots in 13 seconds fired from the hip by Donovan in the control room area of the sub had "echoed around the world", but it would never be fully known why the attack took place. He said it was "a miracle" no-one else had died during the gun rampage during a civic visit by Southampton's mayor and also schoolchildren who had just left when Donovan started firing. Donovan was wrestled to the ground by two civilians, including the then leader of Southampton City Council Royston Smith.
Mr Wiseman recorded a narrative verdict that the officer was unlawfully killed and explained he would incorporate recommendations from Lt Cdr Molyneux's widow into what is called a Rule 43 letter to the navy.
Those proposals include the random crew breath testing, the use of a breathalyser for all those going on armed sentry duty, a look at alcohol allowances while onboard ships and, in particular, on submarines, work to tackle the culture of binge drinking in the Navy and the issuing of handheld breath testing devices to all personnel.