Elephant death soldier’s family hope to focus on the positives (England)



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An inquest into the death of Coldstream Guardsman Mathew Talbot, of Great Barr, who was on an anti-poaching patrol when attacked by elephants, ended last week. His mother Michelle Talbot said the family had waited two and half years for the inquest.

“We need to focus on positive things to do in Mathew’s memory,” she said. 

“I’ve got all these cards the lads wrote and this lovely big leather book with his name on that they had made for us.

“But I couldn’t put the cards in the book, I haven’t been able to do things like that, and there’s lots of other things I haven’t done.” 

She said the family were planning to put a memorial bench at Mathew’s primary school “because he had such happy days there.” 

Recording a narrative verdict senior coroner Darren Salter said Gdsm Talbot had been “deprived of one of the main protective measures” after a ban on the use of warning shots. 

The soldier suffered fatal injuries when his anti-poaching patrol was attacked by elephants in Liwonde National Park, Malawi, in May 2019. 

The ban on the use of warning shots was one of three contributing factors to his death, the coroner said. The other two were that elephant grass should have been avoided and the wrong actions for an attack, namely climbing a tree, were taken in the heat of the moment.

A Ministry of Defence (MOD) service inquiry, published in October 2020 and shared with the inquest, concluded there had been several failings and made 30 recommendations. 

“He absolutely loved elephants,” said Mrs Talbot, “we were just so proud that he was doing something like that, what an achievement.” 

In a statement, Brigadier Ben Cattermole – Commander of the 11th Infantry Brigade – said the Army deeply regretted the Guardsman’s death and apologised for “where we have fallen short”. 

“His tragic death has left a hole in the lives of so many, at home and in his regiment. He represented the very best of our nation and Army but was taken away too soon.”