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HMS Astute Submarine Crew's Binge Drinking Alarmed Authorities: Inquest

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A hearing into a drunk sailor's fatal shooting of an officer aboard a British submarine cast an eye toward the entire crew's alleged drinking habits.

Wednesday's hearing revealed that police investigating the shooting became concerned about alleged alcohol abuse among HMS Astute crewmen and alerted military brass, the BBC reported.

Sailor Ryan Donovan is serving a life sentence for killing Lt. Commander Ian Molyneux and injuring a second officer aboard the sub following a goodwill docking April 2011 in Southampton, England. Donovan's pre-assault boozing moved the Royal Navy to impose tighter limits on off-duty liquor consumption, according to reports.

The inquest this month has focused on the details of Molyneux's death, but disturbing testimony about the nuclear sub's other occupants, including the convicted killer, grabbed headlines in the U.K. on Wednesday.

At the time of the shooting, Donovan was 76% above the legal drinking limit for driving in the U.K., having guzzled "20 pints of cider and lager, cocktails and double vodkas in the 48 hours before he was put on a guard duty with a gun," the Guardian wrote. According to new details from the inquest, detectives determined that his excessive consumption of alchol was not out of the ordinary, when compared to his sub mates. Richard Wilkinson, lawyer for the slain officer's family, said many crew members routinely got "drunk out of their minds."

According to the Telegraph, Wilkinson said it was normal for the crew to drink until they passed out, then return to duty "after five or six hours." HMS Astute Commander Iain Breckenbridge had said he was surprised at the police's concern about the matter.

A 2007 report indicated that members of Britain's armed forces were far more likely to imbibe hazardous amounts of alcohol than the civilian population.

The military's drinking culture has been getting attention stateside, too. Stars and Stripes published an Army study that revealed 43% of soldiers confessed to binge drinking within the previous month, and 67% of that group were between 17 and 25 years old.

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