Royal Marine found guilty of murder for battlefield execution of injured Taliban fighter

Sergeant shot prisoner as fellow soldier filmed killing on helmet camera

A Royal Marine who shot dead a prisoner in cold blood in Afghanistan has been found guilty of murder. The “battlefield execution” took place after a patrol found the Taliban fighter lying injured and helpless in a field.

The convicted soldier, a highly experienced sergeant, was the first member of the British armed forces to be charged with murder in relation to the conflict in Afghanistan.

Two other Marines, accused of the same charge over the killing two years ago, were acquitted following a court martial in which the centerpiece of evidence was a video film recorded by a helmet camera. The harrowing footage, which was shown in court with members of the public and the media present, was not released after the presiding judge agreed to an application from the Ministry of Defence claiming that wider dissemination would be a “recruiting sergeant for extremists”. 

The defendants were also allowed anonymity on the grounds that they and their families could become vulnerable to retribution from Islamist extremists.

Tonight Brigadier Bill Dunham, the Deputy Commandant General of the Royal Marines, described the murder as “a truly shocking and appalling aberration”.

“It should not have happened and it should never happen again,” he said. “It is now for the Royal Marines to consider any impact from this case on the training given to our people as we seek to uphold the very highest standards that we constantly strive to instill and perpetuate.”

All three marines were seen in the film with the Afghan man, who had been severely wounded in a strike by an Apache helicopter gunship. In the footage the sergeant is seen firing a bullet into the chest of the man, who is covered in blood, and is heard saying: “There you are, shuffle off this mortal coil you cunt. It’s nothing you wouldn’t have done to us.” Turning to the others, he added: “Obviously this don’t go anywhere fellas. I’ve just broken the Geneva Convention.”

The sergeant, known in the proceedings as Marine A, was told by the judge after being found guilty that he faced a mandatory term of life imprisonment.  He will be sentenced following psychiatric evaluation. The two freed men, Marines B and C, were told by the judge that they can return to their duties; it is not known whether they will remain in the armed forces.

The video footage was recorded by the helmet camera that, contrary to regulations, Marine B was wearing. 

It was discovered on the laptop of a civilian who took it in to a shop to be repaired. The computer allegedly contained offensive images, unconnected with Afghanistan, and the police were called. They discovered scenes of a prisoner being mistreated and his captors – the Marines – discussing killing him.

The servicemen were identified, and the helmet camera seized by the Royal Military Police. This contained further footage: that of the killing. Seven people were initially arrested. After charges were laid a Facebook campaign launched against the prosecution by the marines’ supporters attracted thousands of names.

The sergeant insisted during questioning that “no one killed” the Afghan prisoner; he did not know at the time that investigators had obtained the film of him carrying out the shooting. His defence at the trial was that he thought the man was dead and that he shot the corpse out of pent-up frustration and anger.

In the film Marine C is heard before the killing saying: “I’ll put one in the head if you want.” Marine B offers: “Take your pick how you shoot him.” But Marine A cautions: “Not on his head, that’ll be fucking obvious.” Investigators also found a diary kept by Marine C. His only regret, he wrote, was that he felt “mugged off” that he had not been able to “pop off the Taliban sh*tbag” himself.

Marines B and C both insisted in their defence that they had no idea that the sergeant was going to shoot the prisoner. Marine C’s barrister maintained that what he said at the time was “stress relieving banter” and the diary was a combination of “embellishment and exaggeration”.

Marine B, a university graduate who had been with the service for only 16 months, said in evidence that he was “stunned and shocked” when the sergeant shot the prisoner. He had laughed at the time but it was “just nervous reaction”. He had lied, he admitted, to protect the sergeant when questioned by military police.

He also said he wished he had stood up to the sergeant. “I did not have the moral courage to do so,” he said.

The Service Prosecuting Authority, which brought the case against the three men, said: “With the conviction of Marine A, the Court Martial Board has sent an unambiguous message that there can be no excuse or justification for the unlawful actions described during this trial and that the consequence of such actions will be of the utmost seriousness.”

A number of media organisations are challenging the decision of Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett to withhold distribution of the video.  In another high-profile case of the killing of a prisoner by British troops – that of Baha Musa, a young Iraqi – footage of mistreatment was made available to the public via the media. The military defendants in that case, and others charged over deaths and alleged abuse during the Iraq campaign, were routinely identified.

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker