Former officer backs Falklands atrocity claim: Parachute Regiment captain 'saw wounded prisoner being shot over an open grave'

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The Independent Online
A FORMER army officer has revealed that he witnessed a British soldier shoot an Argentinian prisoner of war in cold blood during the Falklands conflict.

Anthony Mason, a former captain in the Parachute Regiment, claims the wounded PoW was dragged out and 'shot over an open grave' on 12 June 1982, the morning after the battle for Mount Longdon, the most violent and bloody confrontation of the war.

On Granada Television's World in Action programme tonight Mr Mason provides the first high-ranking support for claims that war crimes were committed by British soldiers in the Falklands. Allegations of atrocities, now under investigation by Scotland Yard, were first levelled by Vincent Bramley, a former lance-corporal in 3 Para, in his book Excursion to Hell.

Mr Mason says he reported the killing to his superiors, but the Ministry of Defence has claimed that before the publication of Mr Bramley's book it had no reason to investigate events at Mount Longdon. World in Action concludes Mr Mason's report went astray somewhere in the army chain of command and was never reported to the MoD.

Mr Mason, one of four witnesses to the killing, said: 'He (the PoW) was unarmed and posed no threat. He should have been treated as a normal prisoner of war. He was shot in the head by a person who was known to me, whose name has been brought up as a result of the Scotland Yard inquiry.

'I went to the position as soon as the shot was fired and I saw the body fall. I told the individual to put his weapon down and asked him why he did it. I received no real tangible logical answer.'

World in Action claims the soldier was moved to another battalion and has since been promoted. Mr Mason said: 'My reaction to that was not particularly favourable, but at the time I was still serving and I chose to say nothing about it. Given the profile of what we had done and what the battalion had done, I didn't expect any kind of court martial, any kind of public event. I feel deeply embarrassed that Scotland Yard has been brought into a situation when it could have been dealt with in-house.'

While he believes the rights of PoWs are 'sacrosanct', Mr Mason believes events must be considered in the light of what the troops had been through. He describes the 'sheer fear and confusion' which preceded the shooting as the two sides fought for more than 12 hours in the dark and sub-zero temperatures for control of the hill. Men were engaged in hand- to-hand fighting, many 'dispatching with the bayonet'. Twenty-three men from 3 Para died.

Scotland Yard has been investigating war crime claims since September last year. Mr Mason is one of 130 people, mostly serving and former members of 3 Para, who have been interviewed by detectives.

Some MPs have criticised the launch of the expensive investigation.

But General Sir Anthony Farrar- Hockley, Colonel Commandant of the Parachute Regiment during the Falklands war, said: 'The allegations cannot be pushed aside.'

The MoD and the Metropolitan Police yesterday refused to comment on the new allegations. The police said: 'We are not prepared to discuss any aspect of this ongoing inquiry.'

(Photograph omitted)