An inquest into a fatal shooting on board one of the Navy's nuclear powered submarines has been told that police investigating the incident were so shocked by binge drinking among the crew that they wrote to military authorities to highlight their worries.
Police officers investigating the shooting of Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux by Able Seaman Ryan Donovan on board HMS Astute during a public relations visit to Southampton in April 2011 discovered that "significant" numbers of the crew were intent on getting "drunk out of their minds" during the visit.
Detectives concluded that Donovan 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 a gun, but that his drink intake was not out of the ordinary among the crew.
The detective leading the inquiry was “highly alarmed” by the crew's alcohol consumption and took the “unprecedented” step of writing to the Chief Constable of the Hampshire Constabulary with his concerns. The Chief Constable then raised the matter with regional military commander Brigadier Neil Baverstock.
The inquest was told that it was normal practice for the crew of the boat to “drink heavily while on shore leave, consuming alcohol over an extended period until they passed out and then returned to duty after five or six hours."
Commander Iain Breckenbridge, in command of the submarine at the time of the shooting, told the inquest that he had no concerns about Donovan before the shootings and was "surprised" to hear of the police's fears of binge drinking by the crew.
Donovan was jailed for 25 years for the murder of Lt Cdr Molyneux and the attempted murder of three others after opening fire with an SA80 rifle when HMS Astute was docked in Southampton on April 8 this year.
The Royal Navy has since tightened its rules on alcohol consumption before duty.