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.

Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvAs the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian on why he'll never bow to critics who habitually circle his work
Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey outside Mo Nabbach’s M&M Hair Academy in west London before the haircut
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Keeper flaps at Nasri's late leveller, but Black Cat striker's two goals in 10 minutes had already done damage
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
News
peopleRyan Gosling says yes, science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Arts & Entertainment
Play It Forward: the DC Record Fair in Washington, US
musicIndependent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads on Record Store Day
Sport
video
News
Supermarkets are running out of Easter Eggs
Deals make eggs cheaper than normal chocolate
Life & Style
Wasp factory: 1.3 million examples of the Vespa scooter have been sold in the last decade
motoringIconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act