A SOLDIER who was shot in Afghanistan while on patrol has been described as a hero by his family after an inquest.
Corporal Michael Pike, who was serving with the Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, was killed by a single shot to the head on June 3 in 2011.
He was operating a machine gun on top of a vehicle after the patrol came under fire.
Michael, who was born in Okehampton and grew up in Merton, was 25 when he died and left behind two children Joshua and Evelyn, who at the time were aged five and one.
The inquest into his death was held at North Devon Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, January 30.
The court was told by his senior officers that his section was part of an operation which had been tasked with reinforcing a patrol to reassure the local population.
Major Steve Burton, the company commander at the time of the incident, said Corporal Pike had been in charge of one of two Jackal vehicles during a patrol with Afghan police.
The patrol was on Highway 601 in the Lashkar Gah area of Helmand province when the vehicles veered off on to terrain which the bigger Warrior vehicles could not navigate.
Michael's immediate boss Captain Robert Grant, who was then a lieutenant and the platoon commander, was in charge of the other Jackal.
At the inquest he said they were trying to secure a compound for the troops to stay in overnight; a local's home known as compound 50.
He said: "We were talking to the locals who seemed very friendly. Corporal Pike pushed his Jackal out, allowing the other Jackal to clear the compound.
"The interpreter called into the compound and a female voice called back saying all the males were at a wedding."
Captain Grant then got separated from the other Jackal as he remained at compound 50.
Lance Corporal Derek Davidson, who was a Highlander at the time and was initially travelling in Corporal Pike's vehicle, said before they had reached the compound a black motorcycle had driven past them with a single rider.
Captain Grant had ordered for the two vehicles to chase after it although they soon lost sight of it.
The gunner said just after they had arrived at the compound they came under fire.
Lance Corporal Paul O'Neil, who was a trooper at the time, was the gunner in Michael's vehicle. He said: "The Jackal was overwhelmed. Mike was saying 'reverse', I was trying to get up on top but couldn't. Highlander Reid was then reversing when he shouted 'man down, man down'."
He added: "Mike was a brilliant soldier, one of the best I have worked with."
Deputy coroner John Tomalin recorded a verdict that Corporal Pike had been unlawfully killed while on active service.
After the inquest the family's solicitor Stuart Bramley released a statement on their behalf: "Perhaps the most notable evidence concerned the action Michael took as soon as his patrol came under attack.
"His immediate response was to return fire allowing his colleagues time to secure their own safety but in doing so he suffered a single shot to the head. No one at the inquest today could doubt that Michael Pike died a hero."