British army officer killed in Kenya was three days from coming home, father says, as he sheds light on son's death

3 December 2023, 11:02

Major Kevin McCool has died aged 32
Major Kevin McCool has died aged 32. Picture: MoD

By Kit Heren

The father of a "legendary" British army officer who was killed in Kenya has said he was just three days from the end of his tour in the country.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Joseph McCool said his son, Major Kevin McCool, went for "one last ride" on his motorbike up a mountain, and was shot dead.

Maj McCool died on November 29. His father said he was killed by two men on the mountainside, although the Ministry of Defence said it would not be releasing further details.

Maj McCool gained his commission from Sandhurst in 2014, and had served in Europe, the Middle East, the Falklands and Africa.

His father said that his son hadn't believed that gun his killers were wielding was real.

Read more: 'Hardworking and dedicated' soldier collapses and dies during 'brutal' training drill, as police 'launch probe'

Read more: 'A soldier through and through': Veteran fell 650ft to his death on Armistice Day during charity hike

Joseph McCool said: "He decided to go out on his scrambler motorbike for one last ride up a local mountain.

"He went up a road and two guys jumped out at him with a gun.

"It seems that he thought the gun was a dummy, he didn't think it was real.

"He made the mistaken assumption that the gun was artificial, and they shot him."

He said of his son: "Every life is precious, but this guy was really, really special," he added.

"He was 1,500m Ulster champion. He ran for Ireland. He played piano, harp, tin whistle. He went to Sandhurst. He progressed up the ranks very quickly to be a major.

"He won several military cross-country races and various sporting events. A very strong sporting guy.

He added: "We are incredibly proud of our son and what he has done."

Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, paid tribute to Maj McCool and said his death was a "tragic loss".

Maj McCool had a "glittering operational record" and "aced many of the military's hardest courses," the MoD said.

They said in a statement: "His fitness was legendary, once beating the whole Battalion on a two miler, as was his endurance. His enthusiasm was infectious.

"He had a mischievous twinkle in his eye, that made him tremendous fun to be with. Yet his professionalism and sense of purpose was paramount, and clear to all those lucky enough to serve with him."

Mr Shapps said: "It's clear from the tributes of those who knew him that Maj McCool was an exceptional person and an exceptional soldier, loved and respected in equal measure, who served his country with distinction."

Maj McCool's commanding officer said: "I will never forget my final memory of him, which was on operations; he had just come off the ground having slept a handful of hours in as many days," the officer said.

"We discussed the possibility of having to deploy another team into the operational furnace from which he had just come. He stopped me mid-sentence, fixed me with his piercing blue eyes, and simply said, 'send me'.

"A bright light has gone out amongst our ranks. He will be missed, but never forgotten."

The British army keeps a 100-strong full-time training support unit in Kenya. Some 280 extra staff are also there on short tours.