Ex-paratrooper faces death penalty after confessing to murders in Iraq
Published 11/08/2009 | 05:31
A British security contractor accused of killing two colleagues in a drunken row yesterday confessed to the crimes in an Iraqi court, according to an Iraqi official.
Daniel Fitzsimons, a former paratrooper, appeared before an investigative judge accused of murdering two Western colleagues and critically wounding an Iraqi. The judge told him he may face execution if convicted. A spokesman from Iraq's interior ministry, Major General Abdul-Kareem Khalaf, said Fitzsimons confessed to shooting dead his colleagues during the brief hearing.
"The British guard today admitted his crime of killing the two men," said Major General Khalaf.
"He remains under investigation in the Green Zone on charges of premeditated murder. He faces the death penalty or life imprisonment, depending on the evidence."
Khalaf said the 29-year-old, who had worked in private security since leaving the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, four years ago, had been drinking with his colleagues when a "squabble" erupted.
Mr Fitzsimons was said to have pulled out a Beretta pistol and fatally wounded Mr McGuigan and Mr Hoare, both 37, as they attempted to overpower him, before injuring an Iraqi colleague, Arkhan Mahdi, in the leg.
"He tried to run away but he was then arrested. He's now in Iraqi police custody and he will be tried under Iraqi law, which could result in execution," said Major General Khalaf.
Mr Fitzsimons had last year written publicly about the mental anguish of the job. Addressing fellow soldiers last year on the Facebook networking site, he spoke of the torment of losing friends: "Stay safe and to those who will return to fight a different battle ... A war inside your head ... A mental fight which will be tougher to win than any fight you've ever been in before."
Last night the Foreign Office said consular officials had visited Mr Fitzsimons in custody as Iraqi police investigated the shooting, which took place in the early hours of Sunday in the company's compound in Baghdad's International Green Zone. The former soldier could become the first Westerner to face an Iraqi trial on murder charges since an agreement giving foreign workers immunity was lifted this year.
Mr McGuigan, a former Royal Marine from Scotland, was a father of one son, Reece, and was expecting another child. "He was a man mountain, larger than life, louder than thunder but a true gentleman at heart. We will miss his laughter, stories and his friendship. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones, his unborn child and all of us will miss him being in our lives," said a statement from friends.
Mr Hoare, who was due home on holiday in a fortnight, had previously served with the Royal Australian Air Force. The father-of-three from Queensland was praised for his "patience and willingness to teach" which endeared him to Iraqi colleagues. His brother Rodney said Mr Hoare's partner Mollyjoe and their three children Trent, James and Jennifer were devastated.
Last night Andy Bearpark, of the British Association of Private Security Companies, said in the past couple of years the industry had come to recognise the need to deal with combat stress among its employees and put in place new practices to tackle the problem – such as a similar trauma risk management programme to the military.