Lance Corporal Colin Theaker (left), 30, who accidentally killed his best friend Scott Hetherington, 22, (right) on January 2, 2017 during a game of ‘quick draw’ despite being warned about ‘playing around’ with weapons was jailed for three years in March
A lance corporal who accidentally shot his best friend during a game of ‘quick draw’ had been seen posing with his handgun ‘like a rapper’, it has emerged.
Colin Theaker, 30, was jailed for three years in March after pleading guilty to manslaughter after he accidentally killed Scott Hetherington, 22, when they were on deployment helping train local soldiers to fight Islamic State 2017.
The pair, whose relationship was described as ‘brotherly’, had both been ‘playing around’ with their service pistols while cleaning them prior to the fatal shooting at Camp Taji in Iraq, north of Baghdad.
A military investigation has now suggested the shooting happened because The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment were ‘bored’ and treated their pistols ‘like new toys’.
Theaker had been seen emulating rappers, according to a Ministry of Defence report seen by the Sunday Express. And once struck a pose with his Glock pistol while using a phrase relating to ‘an American rapper of the hip-hop genre who was injured in a shooting incident’.
The Glock pistols were seen to have a ‘high social value’ and as a ‘gangster weapon’, the Ministry of Defence report added.
‘It was recognised that young soldiers in particular would be attracted to messing around with their general service pistol, based on its novelty and how hand-guns are portrayed in the media,’ it said.
The report is also said to have identified a number of failings by the Army leading to the death of Hetherington. And revealed that a similar incident, in which no one died, had taken place in the same accommodation block six months earlier.
A military investigation has now suggested the shooting happened because The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment were ‘bored’ and treated their pistols ‘like new toys’ (pictured, the coffin of Lance Corporal Scott Hetherington is carried into All Saints and Martyrs Church in Langley, Greater Manchester, ahead of his funeral service)
Hetherington died from a single fatal wound to the lower chest in what was described to the court in March as a ‘tragic accident’.
The court heard the Lance Corporal, nicknamed ‘Snowball’, said ‘no, no don’t do that’ prior to the shooting at around 4pm on January 2, 2017.
While playing around with his weapon, Lance Corporal Theaker had unwittingly made ready his gun and a round was in the chamber when he pulled the trigger, the court heard earlier this year.
Hetherington, a vehicle commander in the Force Protection Platoon, became the first British soldier to have been killed in Iraq since 2009.
The pals were on deployment helping train local soldiers fight Islamic State militants at the time of the fatal shooting in the living accommodation pod they shared together.
Theaker, who was part of a detachment from 2nd Battlion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (2 LANCS) based at Camp Taji, pleaded guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence in February.
He was jailed for three years after being sentenced at Catterick Garrison court martial centre and dismissed from her Majesty’s service in March.
Lance Corporal Hetherington’s partner, Savannah Brown had only given birth to their daughter Safaya-Rose three months before the fatal shooting.
He was buried with full military honours in his hometown of Middleton, Greater Manchester, three weeks after his death.
The pals (Theaker is left and Scott right) were on deployment helping train local soldiers fight Islamic State militants at the time of the fatal shooting in the living accommodation pod they shared together
In an emotional victim statement, Hetherington’s sister Sian told a court: ‘After I was told he died I was heartbroken. When I found out it was Colin I was even more heartbroken.
‘Myself and Scott are siblings but I believe him and Colin are siblings.
‘Him being sentenced is the worst thing that could happen to our family. If he was to be sentenced that’s not justice for me, Scott or his family.’
In a statement read out to court, Hetherington’s mother Anne Hetherington added: ‘He [Theaker] made the biggest mistake you can make and he will pay for the rest of his life. He doesn’t need to go to prison.
‘I don’t wish any criminal charges to be brought against him, it was an accident with no malice.’
Theaker and Hetherington had been cleaning their service pistols and were stood on their beds playing a game of ‘quick draw’ before the fatal shooting, the court heard.
A court heard Lance Corporal Hetherington (pictured), nicknamed ‘Snowball’, said ‘no, no don’t do that’ prior to the shooting at around 4pm on January 2, 2017
But Theaker had taken the magazine on and off and a round was in the chamber when he pulled the trigger.
Theaker came out into the hallway screaming for help, a court heard.
Passing sentence in March, Vice judge advocate general of the armed forces, Michael Hunter, presiding with a three-person military board, said: ‘Theaker you are not an immature soldier, you are now 30-years-old.
‘You played around with weapons after you have been clearly and strongly warned not to play around with weapons.
‘We have heard evidence in the course of this trial and have concluded Hetherington himself expressed what could only have been a warning before you shot him dead.
‘It has been contended by your counsel that the weapons training in the services is inadequate and that you were inadequately trained.
‘While there is no evidence before us to substantiate this the military members of the board hope this is unfounded.
‘You do not need to know you do not play around with weapons and point them at someone deliberately and deliberately pull the trigger
‘This is something that any soldier would know whatever the state of their training.
‘You are very fortunate to have the support of the Hetherington family. Their actions on your behalf can only be described as truly noble and generous, something that is not very often seen in courts of law of cases of this nature.’
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the military investigation will now be studied ‘carefully’ and any recommendations made will be considered.