'When I close my eyes I see Paul and Darren's faces'

British security guard who faces the death sentence in Iraq for killing two colleagues begs to come back to the UK to stand trial
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The Independent Online

A former British soldier facing the death penalty after killing two colleagues in Iraq spoke out last night to accuse the Government of abandoning him and issued a desperate plea to come home. "I've served my country and I am a British citizen but the Government is trying to wash its hands of me," he said, speaking to The Independent on Sunday from from his jail cell in Baghdad. "I want out of here, I want asylum in the UK – to have a proper trial run by proper judges. Everything is corrupt out here."

Mr Fitzsimons said he is haunted by the faces of Paul McGuigan and Darren Hoare, the two colleagues he allegedly shot dead after a drinking session in Baghdad's Green Zone earlier this month turned into a row. The three worked for the British private security firm ArmorGroup.

"I cannot remember a lot of what happened. It was just a blackout. We were drinking and then it just got out of hand. I cannot explain what happened but, put it this way, when I close my eyes I see Paul and Darren's faces. When I wake up I see their faces. Not a minute goes by when I don't feel for their families. I sit here with my head in my hands," said the 29-year-old former paratrooper, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"There's not a minute that goes by that I don't think about those two guys even though I was beaten to shit. There's more to it than has been reported but I've been told not to talk about the case."

He added: "I've always thought, all my life, that, the way I drink, something really bad was going to happen one day, and now it has."

"I've accepted why I'm here; the thing that's upset me is the way I've been portrayed in the newspapers, like I'm some sort of nutter. I worked with some top guys in top companies – professional ex-soldiers – and anybody that's worked with me, who's actually been on my team, they know I'm a good operator."

While he claims that he's not scared of dying he admits that the prospect of being hanged for murder is something that he "doesn't fancy" and said: "I'm the black sheep of the family – I always have been – but it will be devastating to my family if something happens to me."

Describing the 12 sq ft cell that he shares with 11 other people, Mr Fitzsimons said: "There's 12 of us sleeping on the floor; some are sharing – two to a mattress. The guys that are in here with me are a really good bunch, but the water gets turned off at odd hours and the electricity goes off. It could be a lot worse – I'm not complaining." He spends most of his time reading or exercising. "The only thing that gets me stressed out is the amount of people in here. It's quite loud. I like to be able to escape somewhere on my own but I can't. In the scheme of things I know that's trivial. I've got nothing to moan about – this is as good as it gets here.

Mr Fitzsimons has spent the past few years working for private military security companies since leaving 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, after eight years which saw him do tours in Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan. Recalling the lack of support for his psychological problems, he said: "When I was in the Paras having PTSD was frowned upon. I remember asking my sergeant-major and said that I needed some help and was told 'Don't be so soft – just get on with it'."

His legal team, John Tipple and Nick Wrack, are attempting to have him extradited to the UK, and they returned to Britain last night after visiting their client in Iraq last week. "He needs specialist medical help for his psychological problems and a fair trial, neither of which he is likely to get in Iraq," Mr Tipple said.

Lawyers hope to exploit a legal loophole that could allow him to stand trial in Britain, rather than Iraq, on the grounds that the two men killed were foreigners.