Danny Nightingale: the case of the disappearing bullets
DANNY Nightingale is free. Danny Nightingale is the SAS sniper jailed for illegally possessing a pistol and ammunition. The man who has served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria was jailed by the British for owning an illegal firearm and lots of bullets.
Sergeant Danny Nightingale, 37, stood on the steps of the High Court and thanked his supporters:
“It has just been extremely humbling. Very, very humbling. Thank you to the great British public. They have been absolutely wonderful in their support.”
His wife, Sally Nightingale, 38, added:
“It can only be good for all the troops out there fighting for our country to see justice has been done.”
Nightingale’s problems began when in 2007 Iraqi special forces gave him a Glock 9mm pistol and over 300 rounds of live ammunition, including 50 armour-piercing bullets. He was then ordered to fly home, accompanying two of his friends who had been killed in a helicopter crash. He left the gun and ammo behind. Others packed up in his belongings and sent the lot to the SAS regimental headquarters in Hereford. The gun and ammo were in a container. Danny Nightingale never opened it.
In 2010, police found the gun and ammo at his army flat in Hereford. They were responding to an unrelated complaint about his housemate. Mr Nightingale was away at time in Afghanistan. He said he had planned to deactivate the gun and give it to his regiment. Had he forgotten? At his trial, the judge was informed that the soldier has suffered brain damage and memory loss after falling into a coma during a charity run in 2009.
Nightingale was guilty of a crime. He was court martialled. He was held in a military jail in Colchester for three weeks. At a military court, he pleaded to possession of a prohibited firearm and ammunition. Judge advocate, Alistair McGrigor, sentenced him to 18 months prison.
On appeal at the High Court, Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, Mr Justice Fulford and Mr Justice Bean slashed that to 12 months and suspended it. Sergeant Nightingale is free.
All good, then. Only the media are downplaying one point: the bullets. The 338 bullets.
Writing in the Times, Colonel Richard Williams is a former commander of the SAS, makes no mention of them:
The pistol should not have been in his possession in the UK. Nobody disputes this, especially Danny, a man who has spent his whole professional life fighting threats to this country. It beggars belief to think that he would actively try and import a weapon that could be handed over to criminals or terrorists, deliberately or by accident. He didn’t even bring the weapon back to the UK…The real failing lies with the operational management that allowed the pistol to return in the first place. Honour and justice demands that Danny’s appeal be listened to, and his freedom granted and reputation restored; and that the SAS overhauls its system so this can never happen again.
The Sun, which places itself at the centre of the story by leading with a photo of Danny Nightingale browsing the paper, only mentions the bullets once, in paragraph 13. The Express also only mentions the ammo in paragraph 13 of its story, and then only once.
The Daily Mail says Nightingale “thanks the Press” – a clear nod to those who want it brought under State control. It mentions the bullets in paragraph 18, and then only once.
But the pick is the Daily Mirror which mentions the ammo not a single time. The ammo has been erased from the story of the hero wronged.
Mr Nightingale was hard done by. But a gun without bullets is not the same as a gun with 338 of them, is it?