Scientist maimed when bomb declared safe exploded gets MoD payout

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A British scientist who suffered life-changing injuries when a booby trap declared safe by military experts exploded in front of him has won a six-figure compensation payout from the Ministry of Defence.

Lee Peters, 51, feared he would bleed to death when the device, which had been left for seven days before it was tested after being deemed low priority by security, blew up.

The scientist had been working in the MoD laboratory in Kandahar during the height of the Afghan war in 2011 when he was asked to forensically test a suspicious package deemed safe for routine examinations.

He suffered permanent damage to his eyesight and lost three fingers on his left hand.

He said: "As soon as I heard the bang that day, I was under no illusion as to what I was facing.

"It was like being in a movie - everything went in slow motion. I knew my fingers were blown clean off but I could barely see.

"I thought if I fainted in there, I would die because there was so much blood."

Mr Peters was rescued when a colleague heard shouting and came to his aid.

He said: "Initially I wasn't actually worried about my hand as it only felt like I had been punched in it.

"It was my sight I was frantic about - my eyes were burning and I could barely see.

"It was like someone had put a cloth sack over my head in the dead of night - that's how impaired my vision was."

Mr Peters was rushed to hospital where surgeons worked for 13 hours in an attempt to save his hand.

The chemical weapon, thought to be a replica of a Russian landmine detonator, ripped away his index, third and ring finger down to the knuckle.

The force was such that it also blew the top of his thumb off, while his little finger was shattered and left hanging by a tendon. His palm was also obliterated and required a skin graft from his tattooed arm.

Mr Peters, from Wrangle in Lincolnshire, said he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder following the blast - but said he was lucky to be alive.

The married father-of-two said: "My forensic career is over and I really loved what I did - now I can just about hold a glass.

"The whole thing is dreadful - it just shouldn't have happened.

"It has since been said to me that if that device had gone off as quickly as it was designed to, it would have blown my head clean off."

Tracey Benson, Mr Peters's lawyer with Slater and Gordon, said the MoD demonstrated "shocking negligence".

She said: "My client should never have come into contact with this item, and we hope that this case will make sure a similar, avoidable incident won't blight any other professional's life.

"Not only did it strip Lee of his career that had spanned over 20 years but his wife had to leave her job too (to care for him)."

An MoD spokesman said: "We cannot comment on individual cases, but all claims are carefully considered and where the Ministry of Defence has a legal liability to pay compensation we do so."