TWO Royal Marines killed when a home-made mine blew up their reconnaissance vehicle were in an area of Afghanistan deemed low risk enough for them to remove their helmets, an inquest heard on Friday.

Neil Dunstan, from Dorset, and Robert McKibben, from County Mayo in the Irish Republic, both 32, died when their new Jackal was hit in Southern Helmand on November 12 last year.

Coroner David Ridley was told that helmets would not have saved the comrades, who were wearing body armour, from the 25kg roadside explosive.

He recorded an unlawful killing verdict after hearing how no intelligence reports suggested the area was high risk.

Their Taliban murderers will be charged if they are ever caught, the Trowbridge inquest was told.

Tragedy struck after the men drove over a pressure plate while on an intelligence mission with British Reconnaissance Force. Post-mortems showed both had died from multiple blast injuries.

They were joined on the mission by members of the Afghan National Security Forces, one of whom was inside the Jackal and also died. A third Marine was seriously injured but has since made a full recovery.

The convoy had been shadowing a logistics team across the “moonscape” type terrain, deliberately avoiding main paths.

Capt Charles Breach said: “Everybody had body armour on. People may not have had helmets on because of temperature conditions. The assessments at the time were low risk.”

Dr Nicholas Hunt said that body armour and helmets would have been unable to prevent “most, if not all, of these injuries”.

Mr Ridley recorded the verdict “on the basis that this was a device left by the enemy forces and that if any charge were levelled at any individual, it would be murder.”

Marine Dunstan was to marry fiancée Kate Miller in 2010, and the couple had just been decorating their new Plymouth home.

After the inquest, his mother Sue Thwaites, a retired swimming teacher from Burton, near Christchurch, welcomed the verdict.

She added: “I’m glad there was no ambiguity. Hopefully that will be the end of it all; we just want to get on with our lives.”