THE leader of Southampton City Council thought he was going to be killed as he wrestled and disarmed the nuclear submarine gunman yesterday.

Councillor Royston Smith was on board HMS Astute and was just five yards away from a Royal Navy crew member who walked into the control room and randomly opened fire.

A man, believed to be a weapons officer on Britain’s most powerful attack submarine, who had been stood chatting with Cllr Smith, was shot dead at point blank range.

Reports have today named him as dad-of-two Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux, who was in his thirties.

It has also been reported his colleague who is seriously ill in Southampton General Hospital is Lieutenant Commander Chris Hodge.

The arrested man is meanwhile believed to be Able Seaman Ryan Donovan, 22.

Southampton magistrates have today granted police extra time to continue interviewing the man in custody.

Cllr Smith told how more bullets were fired at, and just missed the Tory leader – a former RAF engineer who served in the Falklands – who was accompanying city mayor Cllr Carol Cunio and chief executive Alistair Neill on a civic visit.

Daily Echo: Royston Smith meeting commanding officer Cdr Iain Breckenridge

Royston Smith meeting Astute's commanding officer, Cdr Iain Breckenridge

The party was being shown around the control room when the crewman opened fire indiscriminately just after midday yesterday, firing up to six shots.

Cllr Smith suffered cuts and bruises as he fought to restrain the gunman and remove his rifle. As he overpowered him Mr Neill sat on the gunman until help arrived.

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Cllr Smith said: “He had the rifle pointed at us all. I thought he was going to kill us – that everyone would end up dead.”

Describing how the dramatic events unfolded, he added: “A chap turned up in the doorway with his body armour on and carrying his SA80, but there was no dramas because that is nothing out of the ordinary.

“Somebody went to him and asked him what he was doing and he stepped back and disappeared from my view.

“Then I heard a shot ring out. I initially thought maybe the weapon had been accidentally discharged, but then think I heard someone shout and a second shot followed and I instantly knew it wasn’t accidental.

Cllr Smith added: “A couple of seconds later he appeared back at the doorway. He levelled the rifle towards us all.

The third shot came out and then I heard the hiss right next to me and thought, ‘well, that’s it’.

“I didn’t think about myself at first, I just thought he was going to keep shooting into the room and everyone was going to end up dead.

“Everybody froze, but then I ran at him. I grabbed the rifle and pinned him against the wall. I thought I had been hurt in the leg at that point.

“I spun him 180 degrees and managed to slam him into the opposite wall. I think there was another shot while I was still trying to get the gun off him but he was holding it tightly with his finger firmly on the trigger.

“It all happened so quickly but the next thing was I had the rifle in my hands and threw it under a table out of reach. He was on the floor when I took it from him.”

The gunman did not say anything as he opened fire.

Daily Echo: Captain Phil Buckley and Chief Superintendent Dave Thomas give a press conference about the Astute shootings at Southampton's Eastern Docks

Captain Phil Buckley and Chief Superintendent Dave Thomas give a press conference about the Astute shootings at Southampton's Eastern Docks

Cllr Smith continued: “He was quiet throughout – I was the one shouting as I went for him. I knew the trick was to make yourself as scary as possible, I was definitely making all the noise.

“He had been stood just four or five yards from me and I definitely thought there was a very real chance it was going to all go wrong. It crossed my mind because I couldn’t disarm him straight away that it might not end well for me, he might kill me.

“He wasn’t a giant of a guy but he had hold of that gun firmly, because it took me two good shoves to get it from him.

“Once he was on the floor Alistair came into his own. I was shouting at this point because I saw a second person, dressed in civvy clothes, who for that moment I thought was another gunman. I was shouting to Alistair to help me keep the man on the floor as he was struggling, kicking like a mule, so he sat on him.”

It was the second time this week that Cllr Smith had met the man who was killed instantly by the first gunshots.

“He was a nice man who was showing us around one minute and the next it was all over for him. I don’t feel so much shocked as just disbelief as to how this could happen.”

In the shock of the situation, Cllr Smith’s thoughts also turned to a group of schoolchildren who had been on board the vessel just a short time before.

“As I tried to unscramble all of this in my mind I could clearly see all those school kids stood there, right by where he opened fire.

Reality was they had left almost half and hour earlier and you have to be thankful they were not still in there to witness it.

“I’m not a religious man, but it has certainly made me think that maybe there is something about realising when your time is up.”

Emergency services had raced to the scene following a 999 call at 12.09pm.

Daily Echo: Ratings leave HMS Astute following the shooting incident

Ratings leave HMS Astute following the shooting incident

Multiple ambulances and emergency doctors were on the dockside, including the county’s air ambulance and two Basics doctors, Dr Phil Hyde and Dr Rob Dawes, who were able to help the survivor with what they described as “high-level pain relief”. They also packed his wounds with specialist materials using techniques learned from the armed forces.

The weapons officer, who has not yet been named, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Fire crews from the city were also called to the dockside to carefully extricate the wounded man.

Two fire appliances and the Special Equipment Unit from St Mary’s attended together with members of the Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR) who are based at the Hampshire fire headquarters in Eastleigh.

Police erected a 50-metre cordon around the area and closed off access to the docks close to the QE2 terminal as investigations got under way into what happened.

Major crime detectives will now lead the inquiry, supported by Ministry of Defence officials. Last night they were continuing to question the seaman who had been arrested on suspicion of murder at the scene.