A coroner has questioned the equipment, training and mine detection drills in the run up to the death of a soldier from Kidderminster and three of his comrades in Afghanistan.

Lance Corporal Richard Larkin, 39, from Cookley, was killed east of Lashkar Gah when his Snatch Land Rover was hit by a mine on June 17 2008.

He died alongside Territorial Army special forces soldiers Corporal Sean Robert Reeve, 28, of the Royal Signals, Lance Corporal Richard Larkin, 39, and Private Paul Stout, 31.

Coroner David Masters told the inquest during his opening: "He tells us that that point had not been searched prior to the explosion on the assumption that it had been done by the Royal Scots previously."

A Staff Sergeant, known as Soldier E, told the inquest they had not received any metal detection training and that no metal detectors were available for their UK training.

Speaking from behind a screen, he said: "It was my belief there was not only a theatre-wide shortage of that equipment but if it was theatre-wide it would certainly be back at home as well."

He added: "We didn't receive any training in the use of Ebex (a metal detector)."

Operation Barma drills involved personnel moving ahead of a vehicle checking for mines using visual clues and equipment such as metal detectors, he said. The Ebex metal detector was not available until four months into the deployment, from December 2007, during which time they scanned the ground visually for IEDs, he added.

The soldier, who was commanding the multiple of Snatch Land Rovers, said: "We were fortunate enough to have a member of the multiple who had previous knowledge of this equipment who was able to show us how to put it together and then use that piece of equipment."

"The use of a Snatch Land Rover was met with disbelief from virtually everybody," he said. "I questioned the vehicle's suitability to be used in that environment with regard to the type of work we would be doing mentoring the Afghan National Police (ANP) and conducting operations with the ANP."