Briton facing Iraq death faces UK jail term

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The Independent Online

Danny Fitzsimmons, the former British soldier accused of murdering two of his colleagues during a drunken brawl in Iraq, was already facing a potential jail sentence in Britain and had previously been convicted for firearm offences it emerged today.

The former paratrooper was discharged from the army after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and had been working in Iraq for just six weeks as a private security guard when he allegedly shot dead two fellow guards inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone following a drunken argument. He now faces a potential death sentence if found guilty.

But it has also emerged that the 29-year-old was already facing a possible jail sentence back home for pulling a gun on a gang of teenagers and had also been convicted of possessing ammunition which is illegal for civilians to own.

On 1 April, two months before he returned to Iraq as a mercenary to work for Armour Group Iraq, Fitzsimmons appeared in Bolton Crown Court and was convicted over a public order offence for using a flare gun to scare off teenagers who had been regularly gathering outside his flat in Middleton, Greater Manchester.

He was also given a suspended sentence in November last year for firearms offences after being found in possession of prohibited ammunition - believed to be the standard 5.56mm bullets used by Nato forces in their semi-automatic rifles.

Friends and neighbours have described Fitzsimmons as a troubled individual who had been deeply traumatised by previous tours of Iraq and had struggled to adapt to life as a civilian.

Speaking outside the block of flats where Fitzsimmons used to live one neighbour, who asked not to be named, described the ex-Paratrooper as a “polite and pleasant” person who had clearly seen some traumatic things in the army.

"We knew he had been to Iraq and seen some unpleasant things, because he told us he was in the Army,” the neighbour said. "I did hear from another neighbour that he was young to leave the Army, we don't know why, and apart from the forces didn't know anything else. He tried to get back in, but they wouldn't let him - something wrong up here, mental problems.

He added: "You wouldn't really see that much of him round here, just now and again when he was back home and he would say hello. He was always pleasant and polite and no trouble to me."

Fitzsimmons was arrested by Iraqi forces shortly after two fellow Armour Group employees, Scotsman Paul McGuigan and Australian Darren Hoare, were shot dead after an argument which also left an Iraqi man injured. Fitzsimmons has allegedly told police he fired in self defence after he was attacked by the men following a heated argument.

Previously immune from prosecution in Iraq, private security guards now fall under Iraqi law following a string of shootings that killed Iraqi civilians and incensed local opinion.

The ex-Para’s father and step mother have said their son was suffering psychological problems since leaving the army and have now called on him to be tried in the UK.

Fitzsimons' father, Eric, a former teacher, from Whitworth, Rochdale said: "He had seen loads of IED explosions at the side of the road and seen loads and loads of his friends killed."

On a Facebook memorial for fallen comrades which Fitzsimmons set up earlier this year, the former Para wrote about how mentally difficult it could be for soldiers returning from a war zone. He wrote: "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 ... To those of you ... Fight-through ... Keep your Brothers by your side and never give up ... You are not alone..! Danny Fitzsimons Ex-2 Para."