The trial of the former special services soldier has revealed the human face of a normally secretive regiment
Sergeant Danny Nightingale emerged from the hearings as a soldier dedicated to the SAS and, away from the battlefield, a gentle and thoughtful family man.
Nightingale joined the army in 1995 and the SAS in 2001. He has seen active service in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria and Libya as well as Afghanistan and Iraq.
Like many in the SAS he has a wide range of skills. He is inevitably described as a sniper but his specialist skills also include driving, den-making and surveillance.
When he realised there was a shortage of combat medics in the regiment, he became an expert in that area and helped invent a new type of chest wound dressing – known as the Nightingale Dressing – that is now used by the military across the globe and by ambulance crews in the UK and US.
In 2007, Nightingale was posted to Iraq to help combat suicide attacks on allied forces. He returned to the UK as part of a repatriation party after two close friends died in a helicopter crash.
Nightingale witnessed the accident, which was later blamed by a British coroner on a combination of pilot error and “indefensible procedural and maintenance errors” by the Ministry of Defence.
In 2009, he took part in an endurance event in the Amazon to raise money for injured comrades. He became seriously ill, spent three days in a coma and almost died.
But by January 2010, he was passed fit to return to full duty. He was made sniper co-ordinator of a fast-reaction counter-terrorism team, ready to be airborne within 30 minutes to tackle a Mumbai-style terrorist attack on British soil.
During his trial at Bulford military centre in Wiltshire, a picture emerged of Nightingale and his best friend, Soldier N, living a double life in a suburban street. Nightingale had the back bedroom, N the front. They kept the house neat and tidy and took turns to mow the lawn and clean the windows. All the time they were ready to be helicoptered into a life-or-death situation.
N, who has admitted possessing a pistol and ammunition, came over as more cagey than Nightingale. It was his former wife who told police there were weapons at the house, after they split acrimoniously.
He told the court he had fired “many pistols” in his time and had been on more tours than he could remember. He refused to say which country he was in when he was given the Glock pistol found in his room (it was Iraq in 2003). Asked to whom the pistol had belonged, he first said that he could not pronounce his name – then insisted: “His name escapes me.”
He claimed the acquisition of weapons happened all the time: “You go on operations, you want to bring back a trophy, as our grandfathers did in the war. To bring back a trophy is regarded as semi-OK even though …read more