14 Oct 2010

Norgrove death could result in ‘severe punishment’

Channel 4 News has learned that a US soldier would face “severe punishment” if he failed to quickly inform his superiors about throwing a grenade which killed aid worker Linda Norgrove.

Norgrove death could result in 'severe punishment'

The senior US commander in Afghanistan, General Petraeus, has held talks with David Cameron this afternoon over the circumstances surrounding the death last Friday of the 36-year-old British aid worker, Linda Norgrove, from Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands.

As Miss Norgrove’s body was repatriated to Britain in a private ceremony today, General Petraeus told the Prime Minister he would make it a “personal priority” to find out how she had died.

The Guardian newspaper yesterday reported that a Seal Team Six soldier, a specialist squad similar to the SAS, did not see Norgrove during a bid to rescue her and tossed a grenade which detonated next to her.

“Disciplinary action would range from a reduction in rank, being made to re-train, or something even more serious that would be decided in a court.” Colonel Richard Kemp

US officials initially said that Norgrove, 36, died after one of her captors detonated a bomb vest.

The report also claims that the soldier then failed to report that he used the grenade to his superiors until “long after the event,” and therefore faces disciplinary action.

Disciplinary action
Channel 4 News has learned that the disciplinary action for such an offence would likely be severe.

The former Commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp, said that, in his experience, failure to inform a commanding officer about the use of a grenade could result in a number of disciplinary actions.

He told Channel 4 News: “Obviously it is difficult to speculate until the investigation takes place, but the disciplinary action would range from a reduction in rank, being made to re-train, or something even more serious that would be decided in a court.”

Colonel Kemp added that the latest reports about the circumstances surrounding Norgrove’s death “sound probable.”

Joint investigation

US special forces chief Major General Joseph Votel will lead the joint US-UK investigation into the incident and Mr Cameron has confirmed that Miss Norgrove’s autopsy will be conducted by a British coroner.

If the investigation finds that a Seal did indeed throw the grenade and failed to report it early enough, any reprimand would have to be decided both US and British lawyers, according to Centcom, where the investigation will be conducted.

A spokesperson for Florida-based Centcom said that army investigation guidelines were usually legally binding in these circumstances.

“(But) in this joint environment, no legal guidelines exist.” he added. “It is likely that lawyers on each side will agree on a set of pre-existing guidelines but they will not be restricted to them.”

Miss Norgrove was abducted on 26 September, when her car was forced off the road in Kunar province, near the Pakistan border.

Her parents, John and Lorna Nosgrove, yesterday spoke of their gratitude to the US army for not “sweeping the truth under the carpet”.