An inquest revealed that a British bomb disposal expert was killed in an explosion while working with Second World War explosives.

The hearing was told that Stephen Atkinson (57) was killed alongside his Australian colleague Trent Lee. They were working with unexploded bombs at their Solomon Islands accommodation.

The pair were working with a humanitarian aid NGO in order to map unexploded munitions across islands – the scene for heavy fighting between Japanese and Allied forces towards World War Two’s end. 

According to the inquest, the device was set off in their Honiara home on September 20, last year.

Former soldier Stephen 'Luke' Atkinson, 57, was killed when a wartime device he found exploded in his flat in the Solomon Islands on September 20 last year

Stephen ‘Luke’ Akinson, 57, a former soldier, was killed when a device from World War II exploded in his Solomon Islands home on September 20, last year.

Island detectives later found unexploded Second World War bombs at the blast site

Later, island detectives discovered unexploded Second World War bombs at this blast site

As Luke, Mr Atkinson worked in the Solomon Islands as a programme manager for the non-governmental Norwegian People’s Aid.

The Solomon Islands, lying to the east of Papua New Guinea and was a key battleground during World War Two due to its close proximity to Australia.

The result is that the islands are contaminated with thousands of explosives from over 70 years ago, which still pose a danger for civilians.

On Thursday, October 21, the Eastbourne Town Hall inquest heard that Mr Atkinson suffered injuries to his throat, ribs and upper body in an explosion that occurred at 7.30pm. He later died at Honiara’s National Referral Hospital.

Clifford Tunuki, a police inspector, stated that several other unexploded explosives were also found in the apartment after the accident.

Ian Hird, Atkinson’s friend, testified that Mr Atkinson was injured by an explosive he was handling.

The dad-of-1 worked for the United Nations, as well as the Norwegian People’s Aid. He would locate unexploded ordnances to map them for the police.

Mr Hird stated: “He put others’ safety first and took his responsibility very seriously.”

Born in Singapore to a New Zealand concert pianist and an Irish doctor, Mr Atkinson was well-travelled and has lived in countries such as Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia.

He was raised in Tunbridge Wells in Kent and attended Frewen College in Northiam, East Sussex.

Alan Crazegave, East Sussex Coroner, recorded a verdict for death by misadventure.

Mr Craze said, “There is a boy that is going to need to live with this.”

“I think this is an accident. I will record a conclusion about misadventure.

Mr Hird, who was studying with Mr Atkinson, said that Luke loved Africa and had always felt a strong affinity for it.

He was 17 years old when he moved to Zimbabwe and Zambia – formerly Rhodesia – to work as a park steward.

Dad-of-one Mr Atkinson worked for the United Nations as well as the Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) where he would find unexploded ordnances and map them out for the police

The father-of-one Mr Atkinson worked at the United Nations as well the Norwegian People’s Aid, (NPA), where unexploded ordnances would be found and mapped out for the police

According to Mr Hird, the inquest heard that Luke was intelligent, bright, and well-read. He was known for his innovativeness.

He loved his son, now 18, and did everything to support him. He was a great friend, storyteller, and mentor.

“He worked hard to build friendships and kept in touch with people he’d met throughout his life.”

The activities of the NPA on the Solomon Islands were temporarily suspended in the wake of the accident while investigations were done.

Henriette Killi Westhrin (NPA secretary general) said at the time that it was a tragic accident.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic events and the loss of two great colleagues. We offer our deepest condolences and thoughts to their families, loved ones, and staff.