THE exact reasons why a young soldier left his checkpoint in the middle of the night and wound up being killed by the Taliban may never be known, an inquest has heard.
Highlander Scott McLaren, 20, from Sighthill, has apparently gone to search for some missing kit but was spotted heading in the wrong direction.
After being captured, the soldier was tortured, shot five times in the head and then his body interfered with.
The soldier’s semi-naked corpse was then found several hours later by British forces in a nearby river, the inquest in Trowbridge, Wiltshire heard.
It is thought Highlander McLaren, of the 4th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, may have left the safety of his base in the middle of the night to go to find a pair of night-vision goggles. A comrade had left the equipment at a nearby vehicle checkpoint and Highlander McLaren was the last soldier to see them.
However, the inquest was told that, when he left his checkpoint in the early hours of July 4 this year, he did not cross a bridge over a canal to get to the checkpoint but instead was caught on CCTV heading in the opposite direction.
Wiltshire and Swindon Coroner David Ridley said it would remain a mystery as to what the soldier was doing that night.
“In relation to the time, place and circumstances, the evidence has been consistent in the events leading up to July 4 and what happened that morning,” he told the soldier’s mother and father.
“Strictly speaking it is not part of my responsibility to determine why Scott left the checkpoint that morning.
“Quite clearly Scott was concerned as regards the missing goggles and talked of going back to the checkpoint on the northern side of the canal where they were last seen.
“But the fact, quite clearly on the evidence, points to Scott heading in the direction of the bridge but he never crosses the bridge and heads off in an entirely different direction.
“It is unclear what Scott was doing that night and sadly the only person who could help us is no longer with us.”
The inquest heard that Highlander McLaren was last seen by a comrade shortly before 2am, having finished sentry duty.
“Prior to his duty that morning, Scott had spoken about leaving the checkpoint and going to a nearby vehicle checkpoint 100 metres away on the other side of the canal to look for a pair of night-vision goggles,” Mr Ridley said.
“Soon after waking up his replacement, Scott left the checkpoint at 2.19am carrying his weapon, day sack and wearing his full body armour.”
CCTV shown at the inquest last captured Highlander McLaren at 2.29am and he was discovered missing an hour later.
“At 5pm that day Scott’s body was discovered lying face down in a river approximately four and a half kilometres to the south of the checkpoint,” Mr Ridley said. “At some point after 2.29am but before 2pm Scott had been captured by insurgent forces in the area.
“Scott was assaulted and tortured before being shot five times at close range on the right side of his neck and head before his half-naked body was further interfered with before being dumped in the river.”
Recording a verdict of unlawful killing, Mr Ridley added: “I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Scott was captured by insurgent forces and ultimately was executed by insurgent forces.”