'I feel guilty I'm the only one still alive'

Peter Moore was kidnapped with four others in Iraq. He was the only one to survive. By Kim Sengupta

Click to follow

The funeral of Alan McMenemy took place on a bitterly cold, rainy day at a parish church near Glasgow last week. His body was the final one of four British hostages in Iraq to be returned. The murdered security guard's distraught father, Dennis, has accused the British government of "deceit, lies and cover-ups" during the four years and seven months that his son had been missing.

Peter Moore, the only one to be freed, understands the anger and hopelessness. "What happened was terrible," he says now, in an interview with i in which he gives the first full public account of his experiences.

"I am sure that everyone involved in the rescue effort – the Foreign Office, the military – did their best. But something went very wrong and questions have to be asked.

"Four out five are dead, that's an 80 per cent failure rate, which is pretty poor by any standards. It would be good to know what lessons have been learned from this by the UK authorities, [for] if something like this happens again. The people the kidnappers wanted released were released, but four people died. And the people who the kidnappers wanted released were released anyway." Mr Moore, a 38-year-old IT consultant, and his four guards, all British ex-servicemen, were kidnapped in Baghdad in May 2007. He was freed in return for the release of two senior leaders of the Shia paramilitary group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the brothers Qais and Laith al-Khazali. The negotiation were carried out by an MI6 officer then based in the Iraqi capital.

In the early days of his captivity, the treatment meted out to Mr Moore was often very brutal. But the militia fighters also attempted to make use of his IT skills.

"Beatings were routine. One day they asked me to repair a laptop. Next day a man came and smashed me on the head with the butt of his Glock [pistol]. The laptop belonged to the commander, I was told, and he did not want to be kept waiting. After that I was asked to help out with their computers. Some held US and British military information which was obviously being passed to them."

All this was of huge interest to the British and Americans after Mr Moore's release. He was extensively de-briefed by MI6, the military and UK police officers based at the embassy and the CIA. The IT consultant then returned to the UK and meetings with dignitaries such as the Foreign Secretary. There were media interviews in which, he said, he kept his comments as uncritical as possible.

But he found he could not settle in England. Before Iraq, he had been working in Guyana, and that is where he returned, to set up a computerised system for flood defences. He is back now, briefly, in the UK to try to get further information about what happened. Mr Moore reflected: "I can't help feeling guilty that I am living my life while the others are not here." On 30 December 2009 Mr Moore was moved out of the house where he was being kept in Sadr City, a sprawling Shia suburb of Baghdad, to be, he thought, either shot or be sold to al-Qa'ida. Instead he found himself in the British embassy. "My first words were 'I want a pee'. I just wanted to be alone and I thought that the only place for that would be the toilet."

Mr Moore was working for an American IT company, Bearing Point, in Baghdad setting up a data system at the Ministry of Finance. On 29 May 2007 he and his protection team – Alan McMenemy, Jason Swindlehurst, Jason Creswell and Alec MacLachlan – were taken at gunpoint.

Downing Street officials stated at the time that the abducters were militia fighters in Iraqi police uniform. Mr Moore isn't convinced. "When I got to know some they did not hide they were serving personnel, they showed me their ID cards," he said. "They were police officers. One told me that he had joined the militia after seeing mistreatment of civilians by British forces.

"I can understand why the British Government would say that they were terrorists in disguise. It'd have been quite embarrassing to admit that the police of our allies were kidnapping UK citizens," he added.

A lot of his time in captivity was spent watching TV with his captors. "It was Formula 1 at first. But then that became pay-per-view so they moved to international tennis; they sympathised with me when Andy Murray lost at Wimbledon. But their favourite programme was Prison Break. I didn't see the funny side of that.

The deaths have been a matter for soul searching for the British officials. A senior security officer said "There was always the probability that some hostages would die. It is an unfortunate fact that not all kidnappings end with all the hostages being freed. The group were ruthless and violent. We kept telling the kidnappers that the people they wanted freed would be freed through the political process.

"We do not know the exact circumstances of the deaths of the four men. At the end of the day, what happened, was very, very sad."