Short-sighted squaddie shot sergeant as ‘he thought he was wooden target’

An inexperienced soldier who was known to have very poor eyesight shot and killed his sergeant, believing that he was firing at a wooden target.

Father-of-two Gavin Hillier, from the Welsh Guards, was killed during a night exercise on an Army rifle range in Pembrokeshire.

An inquiry into his death found that the soldier who fired the fatal bullet was initially refused entry into the Welsh Guards due to his poor eyesight, and was only allowed to join up after being issued with special corrective lenses.

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According to the conclusions of the inquiry the soldier – named only as Guardsman 1 – had such poor eyesight that “to see the same level of detail as a normally-sighted person, he would need to be three times closer if using both eyes or six times closer using just their right eye”.

Sgt Hillier was acting as a safety supervisor on the exercise in March 2021.

He was wearing a yellow hi-vis jacket when he was shot, and a red glowstick was strapped to the back of his helmet. He was also wearing body armour.

“On the night of March 4, 2021,” the inquiry’s report states, “Guardsman 1 was not wearing corrective lenses and so his binocular vision would have seen Sgt Hillier, who was 143m away, in the same level of detail as someone with normal vision would have seen him at 429m.

“With their right eye (the eye used to aim and fire the rifle) this would have increased to 858m.”

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Guardsman 1 is understood to have mistaken Sgt Hillier for a wooden target, The Ministry of Defence has declined to release any information on what, if any action it has taken against him.

Sgt Hillier's widow Karyn has reportedly seen the Service Inquiry report but is yet to release a statement on its conclusions.

Mrs Hillier has, however, released a statement in tribute to her late husband.

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Together with her sons Declan and Connor, she said: “I thank you for the day you came into my life and made me your wife and became the father to our two beautiful boys.

“We are absolutely heartbroken and can't express how proud we are of you. Our boys will continue to make you proud and you will forever live on through them.

“Daddy, we are not ready to say goodbye just yet so until we meet again, we love you always. Love, your heartbroken wife and boys.”


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