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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Laura Parnaby

British father died in drone attack while defending Ukraine, says coroner


The first Briton confirmed to have died while defending Ukraine was killed in a shelling attack, a coroner has concluded.

Army veteran and father-of-three Scott Sibley, 36, from Immingham, Lincolnshire, died on April 22 in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine, after a drone dropped mortars on his regiment.

Senior coroner Darren Salter ruled on Tuesday that Mr Sibley was “killed while on active service for the Ukrainian army”, and described the events that led to his death.

The soldier’s relatives, including his younger sister Victoria, watched the Oxford Coroner’s Court hearing by videolink, and his mother, Mary Sibley, described him in a statement as “a good person” who “would do anything for anyone”.

Scott would do anything to help anyone. He had a good heart, and was a good person
— Mary Sibley

Mr Salter said the Grimsby-born veteran had been working as an HGV driver in South Killingholme, Lincolnshire, when Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

He had served in Afghanistan as part of the Royal Logistic Corps before withdrawing from service five years ago to focus on family life.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, Mr Sibley told his family he wanted to use his experience to help the war-torn nation after seeing horrific scenes of abuse on the news.

He took a flight from Manchester Airport to Ukraine via Poland on March 13, and joined the International Brigade of Ukraine in Mykolaiv.

A statement from a consular official outlined Mr Sibley’s final moments from his position in a small military pit, known as a foxhole.

Reading the statement to the court, Mr Salter said: “A drone was seen overhead. Moments later, one mortar landed on the side of the foxhole where Scott was, compromising the foxhole.

“He ran to another foxhole, and while he was running, another mortar hit him, killing him instantly.”

He said Mr Sibley “sustained fatal injuries to his chest and abdomen”, including damage to his left lung and a ruptured kidney.

An American captain from Mr Sibley’s unit informed his father Melvin of his death.

He had heard news about women and children being abused. He wanted to help
— Mary Sibley

In a statement read to the court, Mrs Sibley described him as “a mischievous, blond-haired, blue-eyed little boy” who grew up surrounded by female relatives and took on the role of “protector”.

She added that as a teenager he “spent most of his time” in the cadets and was always “helping where he could”, before joining the Army.

Describing his decision to fight in Ukraine, Mrs Sibley said: “He had heard news about women and children being abused. He wanted to help.

“He knew Ukraine was requiring assistance, especially from those with military experience, which Scott had.

“While in Poland, Scott would make contact via a family WhatsApp group so we would know he was safe.

“He said he had made some good friends and he was fine. He was pleased to be helping.

“He was in his element and likened it to his Afghan tours. This was the last communication we had with Scott.

“Scott would do anything to help anyone. He had a good heart, and was a good person.”

A Ukrainian death certificate was issued for Mr Sibley on April 25, and his body was repatriated to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford on May 24.

He was formally identified through dental records, and by a distinctive tattoo of two hands, one large and one small, on the back of his left shoulder.

The coroner said a forensic pathologist concluded “there is nothing that could have been done to have saved his life”.

Mr Salter added that although Ukrainian authorities were still gathering information about his death, there was “sufficient evidence already obtained” by agencies including the Foreign Office and the Metropolitan Police.

Deaths with unnatural causes, and those that occur abroad, must be considered by a coroner.

The inquest of another former British soldier, Jordan Gatley, is due to take place at 2pm in the same court.

It is understood that Mr Gatley, 24, from Sandbach, Cheshire, was training Ukrainian forces after formerly serving as a rifleman with the Edinburgh-based Third Battalion of The Rifles.

He is thought to have been shot in the city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine in June.

His father Dean Gatley previously said he felt “so proud” of his son, and Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, hailed him as a “true hero”.

A small number of serving and former British personnel are believed to have gone to join the resistance against the Russian invasion, as well as Britons without combat experience.

There was initially confusion on the Government’s position after then-foreign secretary Liz Truss, in comments during an interview to the BBC on February 26, said she would “absolutely” support UK nationals who chose to fight for Ukraine.

She later rowed back on the comments, insisting she had been “expressing support for the Ukrainian cause”, and that there were “better ways” to contribute to the country’s defence.

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