IT was a 13-second shooting spree on board a Royal Navy ship that rocked the Ministry of Defence to its core.
While the killing of Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux on board HMS Astute triggered an immediate full scale investigation, the reverberations of his death and the attempted murder of his colleague were, in the words of a coroner, echoed around the world.
More than three years on from the tragedy in Southampton docks in April 2011 the MOD has now publicly revealed its full response to the incident that will forever be etched in the history of the organisation.
Able seaman Ryan Donovan
As able seaman Ryan Donovan languishes in a prison cell for his crimes, which followed a two-day drinking binge in the city while Astute was docked, the report reveals a catalogue of change within the ranks of Britain’s maritime arm.
It follows a damning letter listing a host of recommendations and change written by former Southampton coroner Keith Wiseman after he presided over the inquest into the death of Mr Molyneux in January 2013.
In a six-page letter dated May 21, 2013 he urged the organisation to instil change – his main recommendation that mandatory use of breathalysers was established and they should “at the bare minimum” be used to test those about to go on armed sentry duty.
Yesterday, as the MOD’s response became public, Anna Soubry, minister for defence, personnel, welfare and veterans, said that the service has already seen radical change.
She pointed to new rules under the Armed Forces Act 2011 that has seen serving men and women banned from drinking any alcohol in the ten hours before duty.
Furthermore they are restricted to consuming no more than five units of alcohol 24 hours before starting work.
The measures have already been put to the test, she says, with several prosecutions since the new rules were introduced.
Lt Cmdr Ian Molyneux
Self-breathalysing devices were available and were also having the “desired beneficial effect on culture and attitude to moderating alcohol consumption”, Ms Soubry added.
But crucially she says the blanket testing could not be carried out – the rules of the 2011 Act prevent that from happening unless there is reason to suspect someone is under the influence.
Mr Wiseman is no longer in post to have his say about why his tough recommendations cannot be put in place.
But it is likely to be uncomfortable news for the family of Lt Cmdr Molyneux – his widow Gillian and their four children – who had called for random breath testing and the mandatory testing of those going on armed sentry duty in a bid to avoid a repeat of the tragedy in the future.
The changes implemented by the Royal Navy were welcomed by Cllr Royston Smith, the man who was aboard the submarine and dodged bullets to wrestle Donovan to the ground.
But he, too, feels they don’t go far enough in some quarters – and backed the call for all those on armed sentry duty to be breathalysed.
Royston Smith at the scene outside HMS Astute
Cllr Smith, who was at the time council leader, was a visiting dignitary aboard the submarine when the deranged sailor, who had a grudge against the Navy, opened fire.
Together with the then city council chief executive Alistair Neill he wrestled Donovan to the ground.
Yet despite his traumatic experience the former RAF engineer, who served in the Falklands said he did not believe in a blanket and random alcohol testing regime.
He said: “Sometimes submarines are under the sea for 90 days so they deserve some R and R when they go ashore and to blow off some steam.
“There are military personnel all over the world doing this but there are no shootings.
What happened was a billion to one chance. It was a shocking incident but a pretty much isolated incident.
“To breathalyse everyone is a step too far.”
New Forest East MP Julian Lewis, a former member of the Defence Select Committee and recently shortlisted to lead it, agrees.
He said: “My feeling is that a blanket and random testing would not, on the evidence either of this case or the history of discipline in the Royal Navy, be justified.
“But an argument could be when weapons are being issued to personnel, who have been on shore leave within the last 24 hours, a simple breathalyser test can be made part of the procedure.
“I don’t think it is necessary to go further than that.”