Published: Thursday 25th June 2015 by The News Editor
The father of an Army reservist who died after collapsing on an SAS test march has accused other soldiers of lying to him about where his son was found.
In a statement to an inquest into the deaths of three SAS hopefuls, David Dunsby demanded to know why he was supplied with “a complete fabrication” concerning the collapse of Corporal James Dunsby.
Cpl Dunsby, from Trowbridge in Wiltshire, died in hospital two weeks after falling victim to a heat illness near the end of a 16-mile (26km) test march in South Wales on July 13 2013.
The inquest has heard that Cpl Dunsby’s father asked the Ministry of Defence if he could see the exact location on the Brecon Beacons where the reservist collapsed.
Mr Dunsby, 58, was taken on to the mountains a week after the test march, while Cpl Dunsby remained critically ill in hospital.
In a statement read to the inquest in Solihull by his barrister, Keith Morton QC, Mr Dunsby said he had asked a group of five soldiers who took him on to the hills if he could “finish” his son’s march for him.
Questioning why he was taken to a spot up to 875 yards (800m) away from where his son was found, Mr Dunsby said: “I now know the location that I was taken was the wrong position.
“I am concerned that I was given misinformation and who this served.
“The evidence shows that my son James was alone and possibly in distress for as long as 90 minutes. These 90 minutes demonstrate the Army failed in protecting and rescuing our son.
“As a parent I need to know why I was lied to regarding James’ position on the day and why it was so necessary to disguise what happened.”
The misinformation had given Cpl Dunsby’s family hope that he was not alone for very long before being found and treated, Mr Dunsby said.
His statement added: “I now know that this was a complete fabrication and that he was on the hill for 90 minutes before any help got to him.”
Mr Dunsby, who said James had died doing what he had trained, sacrificed and worked so hard for, also alleged that three soldiers lied to him on another occasion in the period after the fatal march.
Family members had been asked if they would like to meet some of the soldiers who took part in the special forces “selection” course on July 13.
Mr Dunsby said: “We were told that we could ask any question of them regarding what happened that day.
“The soldiers we met were called Luke, Ollie and Mark, from memory. One was an Australian, from Melbourne.
“I knew that there may be questions that the soldiers would be unable to answer and therefore I requested that if they felt uncomfortable answering any of our questions, they should not answer if they could not tell us the truth.
“We felt strongly that we’d rather they said nothing than give us false information.”
The three soldiers had agreed to Mr Dunsby’s request, he told the inquest, and he then asked them where his son was last seen.
Mr Dunsby added: “The soldiers told us that they had seen James and he seemed OK.
“They said they had spoken with him and got the usual banter and abuse in reply. They said that it was roughly 20 to 30 minutes before they had finished and arrived back at checkpoint 1.
“We found the answers to most of their questions helpful. We noted at the time that it was reassuring and comforting that James had not been alone for too long.
“We now know that the information we were given was an impossibility as the locator beacons, witness statements, routes and timelines do not support their version of events.
“It’s hard for me to understand why the soldiers would lie to us, especially having asked them not to answer rather than provide us with false information.”
Mr Dunsby visited the Brecon Beacons and Sennybridge barracks, where his son had been training, at the invitation of an Army family liaison officer.
Relating his memory of being taken onto the slopes of Pen y Fan by five soldiers, including a fully-equipped combat medic, Mr Dunsby said: “After around 30 minutes we left the walking track.
“It was approximately 200 metres along a sheep track that the leading soldier stopped and checked his hand-held GPS and said we were roughly where James was found.
“After they allowed me a quiet and private moment, we got talking about the day’s events. They did not give too much away but I did not expect much from them.
“Around half an hour later I was asked if I wanted to head back down. I asked if it was possible for me to finish James’s march for him.”
After arriving at Sennybridge, Mr Dunsby said, he met a senior officer and was shown the locations of the march’s checkpoints on a map.
A regular SAS soldier also gave evidence to the Birmingham and Solihull Coroner during the 19th day of the inquest.
The permanent staff instructor, who was observing the march on July 13 on behalf of his superiors, used the cipher 1G during his evidence.
1G said he did not know any of three soldiers who had died, but described the 37 reservists who began an “aptitude” test week on July 13 as a strong group.
“The course in general was a fit course,” 1G said. “All the reservists that went through to test week were up to par. None of them were lacking in fitness at all. They were physically fit, mentally strong and very keen to start test week.”
The inquest was adjourned until tomorrow.
Published: Thursday 25th June 2015 by The News Editor