POLICE investigating a fatal shooting on board HMS Astute were so alarmed by the alcohol consumption of the submarine’s crew they alerted military authorities.
An inquest is currently hearing the circumstances surrounding the death of Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux on board the nuclear-powered submarine last year.
Ryan Donovan, the able seaman who murdered the 36-year-old officer, had drunk 20 pints of cider and lager, cocktails and double vodkas in the 48 hours before he was put on guard duty with a gun.
After talking with the submarine’s other crew, detectives discovered the 23-year-old’s drink intake was not out of the ordinary.
Richard Wilkinson, who represents Lt Cdr Molyneux’s family at the inquest, said police also found significant numbers of crew were getting ‘drunk out of their minds’.
The detective investigating the case wrote to Hampshire Constabulary’s chief constable, Alex Marshall, with his concerns.
The police chief then contacted the military authorities.
Mr Wilkinson said: ‘Detective Superintendent Tony Harris was highly alarmed at the alcohol consumption of Astute’s crew and he took the unprecedented action of writing to the chief constable.
‘It was normal practice for the crew of the boat to drink heavily on shore leave, consuming alcohol over an extended period until they passed out and then returned to duty after five or six hours.’
The Royal Navy has since tightened its rules on alcohol consumption before duty.
At the time, sailors were allowed 10 units in the previous 24 hours with no alcohol in the 10 hours before duty.
This has now been changed to five units.
The inquest yesterday also heard from Commander Iain Breckenbridge, who was the submarine’s captain at the time.
He said he was surprised to hear of the police’s fears of binge-drinking by the crew.
He told the inquest he had been told of no concerns about the crew and he had no concerns about Donovan before the shootings.
Asked if tighter controls should be put in place, such as breathalysing crew, Cdr Breckenbridge said: ‘To minimise the chances of a similar event, it’s something that should be seriously considered but that’s for the policymakers.’
The commander said he believed most of his crew were responsible, did not drink before going on duty and did not report for duty drunk.
Cdr Breckenbridge said he was in another part of the submarine when he heard the shots fired from Donovan’s SA80 rifle.
He returned to the control room and found the gunman being restrained on the floor.
The senior officer paid tribute to Lt Cdr Molyneux, who had gone towards Donovan during the gun rampage.
‘If he had not done that, Donovan would have had the opportunity to shoot more people,’ he said.
‘Ian’s acts were phenomenally brave.’
Donovan was jailed for life after pleading guilty to murder at Winchester Crown Court.
He also pleaded guilty to attempting to murder three other sailors.
The inquest continues.