A young Briton who died fighting alongside Kurdish forces in Syria killed himself to avoid falling hostage to Islamic State (IS) militants, an inquest heard.
Ryan Lock, 20, from Chichester, West Sussex, died last December fighting with the People’s Defence Units (YPG) in the northern city of Raqqa, considered to be IS’s de facto capital.
Former chef Mr Lock, who had no previous military experience, joined the Kurdish militia after telling his family he was going backpacking to Turkey in August last year.
An inquest in Portsmouth, Hampshire, heard that after being surrounded by IS fighters, he turned his gun on himself to avoid being captured and suffering a “frightening and painful death”.
In the months before he died, Mr Lock had kept in touch with his family via Facebook Messenger, sending them pictures and updates on his military training.
But after losing contact with him last December, Mr Lock’s father Jon Plater found images online of his son with an IS fighter standing over his body, and his death was later confirmed, the inquest heard.
Pathologist Dr Basil Purdue said Mr Lock’s cause of death was due to a single gunshot wound to the head.
The inquest heard that following his death, a letter was passed to Mr Lock’s family by someone called AJ Woodhead.
Believed to be a Canadian, he is thought to have travelled to Syria to fight alongside Mr Lock and the YPG.
In the letter AJ Woodhead, who British police have been unable to trace, said Mr Lock “died a true hero” and that in any other war he would have received a medal.
Recording a narrative verdict, Portsmouth and South East Hampshire coroner David Horsley said Mr Lock had sustained a wound to his leg that left him at risk of falling into the hands of a “cruel and ruthless” enemy.
Mr Horsley said: “He was not prepared to let that happen and used his own weapon to avoid capture. That can only be viewed as a brave action.”
The coroner described Mr Lock as a “heroic young man” and added: “He died doing something he quite clearly believed passionately in.”