UK sailor guilty of nuclear submarine killing

AP News
Posted: Sep 19, 2011 11:35 AM
UK sailor guilty of nuclear submarine killing

A Royal Navy sailor who murdered an officer and injured three other crewmen in a drunken shooting spree aboard a British nuclear-powered submarine was sentenced Monday to at least 25 years in jail.

Able Seaman Ryan Donovan admitted in Winchester Crown Court that he killed Lt. Cmdr. Ian Molyneux, the weapons engineer on the HMS Astute, while the submarine was docked in Southampton, southern England, on an April goodwill visit to the port city.

The 23-year-old carried out the attack after being reprimanded for not completing his cleaning duties, telling a colleague as he reported for duty April 8 that he was going to kill someone, the prosecution said. He was not mentally ill, but had been unhappy in his job and did not handle stress well, his defense said.

Donovan had been drinking before his shift and was still drunk when he volunteered for sentry duty, prosecutor Nigel Lickley said, though he managed to pass a sobriety test and was given a SA80 rifle.

Donovan also admitted the attempted murders of Petty Officer Christopher Brown, Chief Petty Officer David McCoy and Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Hodge.

Lickley said Donovan fired four shots at two officers, but missed them. He said Molyneux heard the shots and tried to tackle Donovan, who shot him in the head, killing him instantly. Donovan then walked into the submarine's control room and fired one more shot at Hodge, seriously wounding him, he said.

Donovan was eventually overpowered by two local officials who were visiting the submarine.

Justice Richard Field described Donovan's attack as a "murderous onslaught" and said he should serve a minimum of 25 years in jail.

The 1-billion-pound ($1.6-billion) Astute is one of Britain's fleet of 11 nuclear-powered submarines. Its short career has been dogged by problems. Originally due to enter service in 2005, it began active duty in 2010, years behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget.

In October, it hit rocks and ran aground near the Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland. It was stuck for several hours until it was towed to safety.