28 Feb 2011

Briton Danny Fitzsimons jailed for Iraq murders

A British security worker is spared the death penalty but jailed for killing two colleagues in Iraq. Campaigners tell Channel 4 News he is at risk from fellow inmates due to his past in the army.

Danny Fitzsimons was sentenced in Iraq to at least 20 years in prison for killing Scot Paul McGuigan and Australian Darren Hoare in August 2009.

Mr McGuigan, 37, a former Royal Marine originally from Peebles in the Scottish Borders, was shot alongside Mr Hoare in Iraq’s Green Zone.

Fitzsimons, 30, from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, worked alongside the two men for private security firm ArmourGroup.

Mr McGuigan was shot twice in the chest and through the mouth, while Mr Hoare was shot through the temple at close range.

Fitzsimons claimed he was acting in self-defence when he shot his colleagues, asking the judges to consider a plea agreement which would convict him on lesser manslaughter charges.

Fitzsimons is the first Westerner to stand trial in Iraq since a 2009 US-Iraqi security agreement lifted immunity for foreigners.

Iraq jail warning

The family of the security worker welcomed the decision not to sentence him to death, but warned of the “massive concerns” ahead.

Tineke Harris, Director of Reprieve‘s Death Penalty Team, told Channel 4 News Fitzsimons faced a difficult and potentially volatile situation if he was jailed in Baghdad due to his past as a soldier in the British army.

“We are not out of the woods just yet. It is still open to the prosecution to file an appeal arguing for a death sentence,” Mr Harris told Channel 4 News.

“There is also the possibility that Danny will be transferred to the notorious Rusafa prison outside Baghdad’s Green Zone where, as a former British soldier, he would be at great risk of violence from fellow inmates and his mental health would most likely deteriorate even further.

“Our chief concern at the moment is Danny’s safety and welfare in detention.”

Fitzsimons joined the Royal Fusiliers at the age of 16 and later served in 2 Para. His operational postings included a tour of duty in Kosovo. He started working as a private security contractor after he left the Army.

Danny Fitzsimons

PTSD history

Liz Fitzsimons said her step-son should not have been allowed to go to Iraq because of his mental health. She said Fitzsimons was discharged from the military after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

His family did not know that he had gone to Iraq to work for the private security firm.

“We feel we should have got treatment and help for him, but we also feel the Ministry of Defence have let him down and continue to let down an awful lot of these young soldiers who come out with PTSD and aren’t offered any help for it,” Mrs Fitzsimons said.

“Danny, for the last few weeks, has been constantly saying he cannot end up in Rusafa jail, which is the main jail out there.

“He said it’s full of al-Qaeda, Taliban, Mujahideen, all of these people.

“He said ‘I will be a target’ and he said ‘I just won’t last’. He said ‘I will be a dead man if they put me in there’.

“We really are concerned that wherever he does end up he is safe. He has also said that if they talk about putting him in Rusafa jail he will take his own life first.”

A spokesman for G4S, which owns ArmorGroup, said it was a “tragic case”.

He said: “Our thoughts remain with the families of Paul McGuigan and Darren Hoare, who were valued and highly respected employees of the company and who continue to be sadly missed by their families, colleagues and friends alike.

“We have no comment to make regarding the trial process or the content of the trial itself.”