Unlawful killing verdict on mine blast victim

Stephen 'Darby' Allan
Stephen 'Darby' Allan
Portsmouth Crown Court in Winston Churchill Avenue

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An explosives experts who died trying to disarm a land mine in Sudan was unlawfully killed, a coroner ruled today.

Former Royal Navy diver Stephen ‘Darby’ Allan died following an explosion while clearing a mine near the town of Kapoeta on October 15 last year while working with mine clearance charity Mines Advisory Group (MAG).

An inquest at Portsmouth Guildhall today heard the Portsmouth man died four hours after an anti-personnel land mine unexpectedly went off while he was knelt dealing with it.

The inquest heard it took almost four hours to get an aircraft in to evacuate Mr Allan from Kapoeta but pathologist Judith O’Higgins said the severe loss of blood from his injuries meant it was likely he would have still died.

Coroner David Horsley ruled Mr Allan was unlawfully killed.

He said: ‘Somebody planted that horrible device there with the intention of harming somebody.’

The coroner praised Mr Allan, who had more than 30 years of experience working to make explosives safe.

He said: ‘I think he’s died a hero’s death here.

‘This should be a celebration of Darby’s life. He was a true hero. Throughout his working life, he’s done dangerous work so other people could live and I think that’s something that should be recognised and the world is a poorer place without him and people like him.

‘Countless people will owe their lives to him.

‘He seemed like he was a wonderful man and I’m so, so sorry this has happened.’

After the hearing, Mr Allan’s daughter, Sarah Taylor, 28, speaking on behalf of the family, said: ‘My dad could not have done anything more for us as a father or a husband. We are so proud of the job he did.

‘I think today has helped give the family closure. It was a very wise person heading the inquest and he had a lot of respect for him. I think his verdict of unlawful killing rather than an accident has given us more closure.

‘An accident feels like it’s a waste if life whereas unlawful goes to show he was following full procedure, wearing protective gear and there was nothing he could have done any different.

‘He was well aware what he did was dangerous and he always said that if anything happened it would be beyond his control and circumstances and it was.’