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Chippenham soldier died after drinking 16 shots in 45 minutes, inquest hears
Soldier Andrew Murgatroyd died of alcohol poisoning and inhaling his vomit after his army friend plied him with 16 shots of spirits in 45 minutes, an inquest heard.
The 21-year-old private, based at Buckley Barracks, in Hullavington, near Chippenham, downed a potent mixture of all eight spirits from the top shelf, and then did it a second time within the hour, leaving him almost three times over the drink drive limit.
His friend of four years Gary Wroe, who bought him the two ‘top shelf’ drinks from the army camp bar, said his intention had been “to get him drunk”, as was army tradition in a farewell do after his colleague was posted to Aldershot in Hampshire in February this year.
The inquest in Salisbury yesterday heard that Mr Murgatroyd fell unconscious in the bar and was driven by army staff on duty back to his Stanton St Quintin home, where his wife saw him turning blue. Mr Wroe, who had received refresher training in first aid a fortnight before, tried to resuscitate him with CPR.
Each round had contained a shot of Morgan’s Spiced, Southern Comfort, a whisky, Lambs rum, Bacardi, a vodka, Archers and Malibu.
Earlier in the night Mr Murgatroyd had drunk a pint and a quarter of lager with a meal in Chippenham, followed by between two and four cans of lager on returning to camp at about 9pm.
When asked by the coroner if Mr Murgatroyd had been put under pressure to drink, DC Tom Allen of Melksham CID said: “No. My understanding is that Andrew drank that out of his own freewill.”
Mr Wroe told the inquest: “It’s a tradition of the army to get your mate drunk before he gets posted.”
When asked if he had given any thought at the time to the consequences, he said: “It was just to get him drunk”.
He said he was not aware that mixtures of top shelf spirits were prohibited by standing orders.
But Major Timothy Parkes said staff were given regular briefings on the effects of drinking and “They were certainly aware of no top shelves”.
He said: “I can only say sorry to the family if they did something wrong. I’m not sure they did. I wish we could turn the clock back because it is such a waste. Certainly we’ve learned the lesson, issued a contract that in no circumstances will any top shelves be drunk in its bars, and we continue to educate our soldiers in the ways we already have.”
Assistant coroner Ian Singleton said there had been a “lack of appreciation of the combined effects”. Delivering a narrative verdict, he said: “This was a tragic and an unnecessary death at a time when Andrew was looking forward to a new posting.”
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