Council leader grappled with gunman on board nuclear submarine

HMS Astute: 'Grounded'
Scene: Two naval officers were shot on board HMS Astute.© STV

A former council leader has told an inquest how he overpowered a gunman who shot dead a Navy officer on board a nuclear submarine.

Able Seaman Ryan Donovan, 23, killed one officer and wounded another in the stomach while HMS Astute, based at Faslane on the Clyde, was docked at Southampton on April 8 2011.

An inquest in Southampton heard how the shooting happened just minutes after a visiting school party had left the submarine.

Royston Smith, who was leading a group of visiting dignitaries as leader of Southampton City Council, said Donovan came into the control room wielding an SA80 automatic rifle.

The 48-year-old said: "Looking back on it, you might think it was quite unusual as his weapon had a magazine on it which you would never expect on a ship or a submarine."

Mr Smith, who served for 10 years as an RAF aircraft engineer, said he then heard shots from the corridor.

He said: "The first one I thought was an accident, when I heard the second I thought you do not accidentally release two rounds by accident - when that happened I thought something was wrong."

Mr Smith said that Lt Cdr Molyneux then left the control room to see what was happening.

He said: "There were some shots, Mr Molyneux left the control room, there was that shout, then Donovan came back into the control room.

"I definitely knew we were in some trouble, my thought processes were that he had a lot of rounds left in that weapon and we do not know what people do when they are unstable and I assumed it would continue until someone stopped him and I was facing him and I felt I had a duty to do that.

"I thought if I can get close to him he can't shoot me, if it's a knife it's a completely different ball game."

Donovan has since been jailed for life after pleading guilty to murdering Lt Cdr Molyneux and attempting to murder 45-year-old Lieutenant Commander Christopher Hodge, 45.

Winchester Crown Court heard that his real targets, who he also admitted to attempting to murder, were Petty Officer Christopher Brown, 36, and Chief Petty Officer David McCoy, 37.

The crown court sentencing hearing was told that Lt Cdr Molyneux, a father-of-four, known as Molly, had bravely tried to tackle Donovan after hearing previous shots from the SA80.

Donovan had been drinking while ashore and had volunteered for guard duty when onboard, because he admitted he was intent on killing the two petty officers who had reported him for disobeying a direct order to clean a part of the sub.

He had been told he would not be leaving the sub for an attachment on another vessel because of his behaviour, and he had anger towards them, the court heard.

The inquest continues.