A young Briton has been hailed as a hero after shooting himself to avoid being captured by Islamic State militants he fought alongside Kurdish forces in Syria.
An inquest has heard how Ryan Lock, 20, from Chichester, West Sussex, died last December while fighting with the People’s Defence Units (YPG) in the northern city of Raqqa, considered to be IS’s de facto capital.
Mr Lock, a former chef, had no previous military experience when he joined the Kurdish militia after telling his family he was going backpacking in Turkey last year.
An inquest in Portsmouth has now heard that after being wounded and surrounded by IS fighters, Mr Lock turned the gun on himself to avoid a ‘frightening and painful death’.
Recording a narrative verdict, Portsmouth and South East Hampshire coroner David Horsley said Mr Lock had sustained a leg wound that left him at risk of falling into the hands of IS forces.
He said: ‘He was not prepared to let that happen and used his own weapon to avoid capture. That can only be viewed as a brave action.’
The coroner also described Mr Lock as a ‘heroic young man’, before adding: ‘He died doing something he quite clearly believed passionately in.’
Mr Lock had kept in touch with his family via Facebook from Syria in the months before his death, but his father Jon Plater discovered his son had died after he found images online of him with an IS fighter standing over his body.
Describing how her son had claimed he was going to Turkey, Mr Lock’s mother said: ‘He just said that he had planned this for ages and that he had time off work. He said he would be going for a few weeks, maybe a month.
‘And when I found out he was going to Turkey I said, “You do realise that’s right next to Syria where there is a war”.
‘I hadn’t twigged that was exactly his plan, to head to Syria.’
Mr Lock’s body was eventually repatriated to the UK in February – with supporters of the YPJ female fighting forces hailing his ‘hope for change in the whole world’.
He is thought to be the fourth Briton who died while fighting IS with the Kurds in Syria.