A SENIOR Navy officer has described the “phenomenally brave” actions of a murdered colleague as a crazed gunman opened fire on board a nuclear submarine berthed in Southampton.

Commander Iain Breckenridge praised the life-saving actions of Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux after Able Seaman Ryan Donovan went on a murderous rampage on board HMS Astute.

Cdr Breckenridge told an inquest how Lt Cdr Molyneux walked directly towards Donovan after hearing two gunshots.

The 36-year-old father-of-four was this year posthumously awarded the George Cross for his actions - the highest civilian honour available in the UK.

Cdr Breckenridge told Southampton Coroner's Court how he thought the two bangs had come from a detonating device used in training exercises, but he then heard further shots fired by Donovan and urged visiting dignitaries to “get out the way”.

Cdr Breckenridge told the court: “I knew in my heart of hearts had he not done what he did Donovan would have had the opportunity to shoot more people.

“What Ian did was phenomenally brave and rightfully deserving of the national recognition he recently had.

“A lot of people are here today because he acted as he did.”

The inquest has heard Donovan, who was 22 at the time of the shooting in April 2011, is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of Lt Cdr Molyneux.