Libel victory for soldier over Iraq claims

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The Independent Online

Colonel Tim Collins was awarded substantial but undisclosed libel damages yesterday against two national newspapers which claimed he was being investigated for war crimes in Iraq.

Colonel Tim Collins was awarded substantial but undisclosed libel damages yesterday against two national newspapers which claimed he was being investigated for war crimes in Iraq.

Colonel Collins, 43, whose eve-of-battle address to his troops during the Iraq war won worldwide acclaim, brought the case against the Sunday Express and Sunday Mirror.

Outside the High Court in Belfast his lawyer, Ernie Telford, said: "This is one fight he had to win. He has been to hell and back. He is very relieved, very pleased and totally vindicated." Lawyers for the newspapers apologised after admitting allegations, which included linking the soldier and men of his Royal Irish Regiment to murder investigations of Iraqi soldiers, were untrue.

The Northern Ireland-born officer, who has five children, is leaving the Army in August after 22 years. He was promoted to full colonel last July. Mr Telford added: "This is not an experience he has enjoyed, because it meant stress and strain on his mother, wife and children. He is used to combat, they are not. But he is relieved it's over, and he now just wants to get on with his life."

As Mr Telford spoke, Colonel Collins stood beside him in silence. As a serving officer in the Army he is forbidden to speak publicly without permission. He has not commented on his plans after he leaves the Army.