Police to interview dozens of witnesses over soldiers' deaths in Brecon Beacons

Detectives say they are trying to establish if criminal offence took place as inquests into men’s deaths are opened

Detectives investigating the deaths of two reservist soldiers who collapsed and died during an SAS selection exercise are interviewing dozens of military personnel and civilians to establish if any criminal offence took place.

The second of the two men who died in the Brecon Beacons, in south Wales, as they took tests in searing summer temperatures to become part of the SAS section of the Territorial Army on 13 July was named on Wednesday as 31-year-old Edward Maher.

It is understood that like the other man who died, 24-year-old Lance Corporal Craig Roberts, Maher was an experienced soldier who had completed at least one tour of Afghanistan.

At an inquest in Brecon, within sight of the peak of Pen Y Fan, where the men were taken ill, it was confirmed they had been taking part in a selection process. It also emerged that though postmortems have been carried out, the cause of the pair’s death remains “unascertained”. Further tests are being carried out.

Detective Inspector Iwan Jones, of Dyfed Powys police, told the hearing that the force received a call at 5.15pm from ambulance personnel on 13 July to say that there had been “multiple casualties” during an army selection exercise on the Brecon Beacons.

They were informed that one man was dead and there were a further four injured. Roberts was pronounced dead at 5.10pm on the hillside. Maher was pronounced dead in hospital at 8pm. A third man remains in a critical condition.

Jones said the police were working with the Health and Safety Executive on the inquiry. He said military personnel, civilians and emergency crews were all being interviewed as part of the process to establish if any criminal offence had been committed. Outside court, he said the investigation was complex and likely to be lengthy because dozens of witnesses – military and civilian – scattered across the UK had to be interviewed.

Powys coroner Louise Hunt said the full inquest would look at whether article two of the Human Rights Act – the right to life – had been contravened and whether there had been any failings by those in charge of the soldiers. She adjourned the case until 3 September.

Naming the second soldier earlier, the Ministry of Defence said: “Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.” In a brief statement released through the MoD, Maher’s family said: “At this time of great sadness, Edward’s family has asked that they be left alone to grieve in private.”

The MoD refused to comment on reports that Maher had worked as part of an elite reconnaissance and intelligence unit.

Witnesses have reported seeing soldiers on the exercise pleading for water and in distress. It is understood the men had been taking part in the start of aptitude testing having already been trained in how to survive in hostile conditions.

Pen Y Fan, the highest mountain in southern Britain, is the setting for the …read more  

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