4 Jul 2013

SAS trial: insights into a ‘rather private regiment’

The course of the day’s action at the trial of SAS Sgt Danny Nightingale has thrown interesting light into what one SAS soldier today called “a rather private regiment” with commendable understatement.

For much of the day Soldier N – Sgt Nightingale’s housemate at a location we cannot reveal – was under cross examination. He said at the time in question the two men – both range instructors – were close friends, best friends.

Late in the day he told the court that bringing weapons and other booty back from war was as common as it was criminal:

“We wanted to bring back trophies like our grandfathers did. It’s par for the course. I know it’s illegal but it’s still considered semi-OK. You only have to look at the walls of an officer’s mess to see what comes back.”

Earlier he was a little more specific citing the walls of the mess at Hereford, HQ of the SAS.

He freely admitted having a live hand-grenade at the house where the men lived:

“I put it there the night before I deployed at 04.00 hours,” he said.

He described a situation where he would routinely keep back about 10 per cent of the rounds needed for working on the range. He told the court this was mostly because the house was  located closer to the range than the ammo stores, so it was easier to get started in the morning.

“It wasn’t just lazy – it was criminal,” said defence counsel.

“Yes,” agreed Soldier N.

Over a year ago he pleaded guilty to having a small arsenal of bullets, flares, sights, the grenade and a 9mm Glock pistol stashed in various locations around the house.

He never asked, but said he assumed Sgt Nightingale was also stashing bullets illegally around the house because they did the same job on the ranges.

Soldier N is coming to the end of a prison sentence for illegal possession of guns and bullets.

Deployed abroad, he was told west Mercia police had searched the house back home. He said to Sgt Nightingale:

“Look mate – I’ve admitted to items in the house and I’m buggered. But I don’t understand why you’re here Danny? I said I’d got the pistol from a certain operational theatre.”

“He (Danny) said I’ve got the same mate.”

“Did you know he had a pistol?” he was asked.

“No,” he replied.

The two men talked about the consequences of a minimum jail term for the offence of five years.

Mindful of never giving anything away Soldier N continued:

“He (Danny) said he’d got the pistol from a certain operational tour and it was given him by certain nationals as a gift.”

It emerged that Soldier N had split up from his wife and he and Sgt Danny Nightingale were in the habit of alternating weekend visits to the house for their children. Thus one weekend Sgt Nightingale and his wife Sally would stay and their children would sleep in Soldier N’s bedroom. On another weekend it would be the other way round.

When Soldier N found out that a pistol had been found in Sgt Nightingale’s bedroom wardrobe and a large bag of live bullets under the bed, he said:

“I was surprised. Not shocked. Surprised because my children used to sleep in that bed.”

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