A young soldier was found dead at an army base in Afghanistan, an inquest has heard.
Private Joe Berry, from Crewe, died on February 22, 2020.
He was serving with the Second Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, at the New Kabul Compound at the time, CheshireLive reports.
The 21-year-old was found dead in a portable toilet on the site by one of his fellow soldiers, who had been looking for him after Joe sent a WhatsApp message to his roommate.
Reports from a pathologist and a forensic scientist concluded that he died from a gunshot wound to the head that was ‘consistent with being self-inflicted’.
It also emerged that he had been in trouble with his company sergeant major that morning for cleaning and unloading his rifle in his room the night before, which is not allowed due to safety reasons.
During the first day of the inquest in Warrington on Wednesday (January 5), statements were made by a number of army personnel who were serving with Joe in Kabul at the time of his death.
Joe’s roommate, Lance Corporal Josh Brown, said Joe had returned from range practice at about 9pm the day before (February 21, 2020), at which point he had started to strip his rifle to begin cleaning it.
The next morning, Lance Corporal Brown woke and noticed Joe’s rifle was ‘still in pieces’, and the muzzle had become ‘blocked’ due to Joe using the wrong sized flannelette, which is usually used to clean the inside of the barrel.
He said: “I noticed there was an issue and I tried to help him unblock his muzzle.
“We tried for a good 10-20 minutes before I suggested to him that he should take it to ‘Goody’ (armourer Lance Corporal Scott Goodenough).”
In a written statement, multiple commander Thomas Wilson said he saw Joe in the corridor close to the armoury and helped him unblock his rifle and put it together again.
Sgt Major Christopher Groves said he had to reprimand Joe that morning after finding out he had been unloading and cleaning his weapon in his room and not in the designated area.
But he added: “I said ‘we all make mistakes’ and I could see he was distressed. I said he should get on with the rest of his day and that we’d deal with it later.”
“He was tearful and that’s why I took the opportunity to say to him that we all make mistakes, to accept the mistake and get on with the rest of the day.”
Joe was asked by Sgt Major Groves to get his multiple commander Sgt Tony Fitzpatrick, who said the young soldier had seemed ‘tearful’ and kept saying ‘I f***** up’.
Lance Corporal Brown later alerted Sgt Fitzpatrick after he received a WhatsApp message from Joe that said: “Thanks for being such a good friend. I wish I was better at everything. You are such a legend…..love you man.”
The message also informed them where he was, and a search for Joe began with Private Kyle Smith, now a Lance Corporal, heading to the area where the portable toilets were.
He said he found Joe dead in a portable toilet along with his Glock pistol, which they carried at all times, his phone, a notebook with a message on it and a pen.
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Lance Corporal Smith described the items as looking like they had been ‘placed’.
According to the report from the forensic scientist, it was the Glock that had been fired.
Paying tribute to her son during the inquest, Joe’s mum Lisa Snow said her son ‘loved’ being in the army.
She said: “In all honesty, I would have probably preferred another career path for him as I didn’t want to see him get hurt or take risks.
“He prepared for a long time with his fitness and reading lots of books. He had a small stature – you would not look at him and immediately think paratrooper but he was very strong mentally and physically.
“He absolutely loved it, he was living his dream. He wanted to see the world and he hoped the army would help him to do that.”
She described him as an ‘inspirational’ person who loved animals and the theatre, adding that most of the letters she received after his death were sent by people who referred to him as ‘their best friend’.
Joe’s Dad Nick Berry, a squad leader in the RAF, said: “I am incredibly proud of what he was able to achieve. It takes something special to do what they (the parachute regiment) do.
“It was a big adventure for him and I was always proud of what he was doing.”
Both Mr Berry and Ms Snow were regularly in contact with Joe during his deployment, and both said there were no signs that he was planning to take his own life.
The inquest is due to be concluded by the senior coroner for Cheshire Alan Moore on Thursday (January 6).