British soldier tried to climb a tree to escape elephant charge, inquest told

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A soldier killed by an elephant had tried to climb a tree to escape, his accomplice said in an investigation that began today.

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Coldstream Guardsman Matthew Talbot of Great Burr, West Midlands, died of his injuries during an eight-day and five-man anti-poaching patrol at Liwonde National Park in Malawi on 5 May 2019.

The patrol leader, Lance Sergeant Robert Padgham, told the Oxford Coroner’s Court how he and GDSM Talbot, 22, had to climb trees to escape the elephant stampede.


In evidence of the hearing via video-link he said – reading from a statement: “I remember we were patrolling straight west.

“Around 10.00 am we were patrolling through elephant grass, which is about seven feet in height and has limited visibility.

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“An elephant appeared about five meters to my right.”

He told in interrogation that he, LSgt Padgham, and three park rangers started running in different directions.

The soldier said: “The leading ranger signaled dangerous game to the front. We started to back off and then it was charging from my right side so we just dispersed like we were taught. “

When GDSM Talbot attempted to climb a “leading branch” of a tree, he was “thrown” and “dropped into the air” by an elephant making sweeping movements with his head – LSgt Padgham told the court .

LSgt Padgham, who climbed a tree to escape, said he had gone to the ground to drag Gdsm Talbot into a tree cover before giving first aid, and carrying him on a stretcher to the vehicle pick-up point. helped to go.

He said that, during the elephant attack, he had lit and threw a firecracker in an attempt to scare the herd.

LSgt Padgham said soldiers on anti-poaching patrols were taught to fire warning shots, only as a last resort, to scare away the animals.

But he added that we would have “fired a warning shot” if he had been in a position to do so.

Explaining why he didn’t fire a warning shot after climbing a tree during the elephant stampede, LSgt Padgham said: “Sharpshooter [rifle] It’s quite long.

“I was hanging on a tree with one hand. I didn’t want to shoot in the direction where the beast was in the case of killing Mathew. “

A report of GDSM Talbot’s death had identified LSgt Padgham’s “leadership and personal strength” as “initially a life saver” for evacuating his partner on a stretcher and controlling the bleeding – the interrogation was heard.

The statements were read out for hearing on behalf of three park rangers who took part in the patrol.

One of the rangers said he fired a warning shot to scare off an elephant when he learned it was running towards him.

The investigation, seated without a jury, follows a Ministry of Defense (MoD) service investigation published last year, which estimated how long it would take for a casualty to move from a remote location to the nearest hospital.

In September 2019, the Duke of Sussex laid a wreath for Gdsm Talbot at a memorial during a visit to Liwonde National Park.

His handwritten message attached to the wreath read: “In grateful memory of Guardsman Talbot who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of his country and conservation. rip in peace.”

The investigation will hear evidence in two weeks, including the command and management of the incident, preparedness and procedures in place in Malawi, and the resources available at the time.

Hearing continues.


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