Soldier was alive hours after Iraq ambush, inquest told

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The Independent Online

A British soldier was still alive as his killers filmed him surrounded by an angry crowd days after the Iraq invasion.

More than three years after Sapper Luke Allsopp, 24, and Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth, 36, were killed, an inquest revealed the frightening confusion of that day as well as the apparent errors which led the bomb disposal experts of 33 Engineer Regiment into risky territory.

The pair were on their way to clear a radio station on 23 March 2003 when they were ambushed. Their bodies turned up in shallow graves three weeks later.

Footage shot by the insurgents was passed to al-Jazeera television, prompting a row when Tony Blair said they had been executed after the men's families were told they died in combat.

Dr Nicholas Hunt, a forensic pathologist, told the inquest yesterday that the film, taken in Az Zubayr, outside Basra, four hours after the ambush, showed that Sapper Allsopp was still breathing as he lay surrounded by the crowd "although apparently close to death". The inquest heard both died of multiple gunshot wounds.

Captain Michael Eastough told the hearing that the group had been warned not to enter the town, a "risky area" ringed by coalition forces.

Andrew Walker , the Oxford assistant deputy coroner, said: "It's difficult to understand how this convoy made its way into an area which was highly risky without encountering any British troops to tell them, 'You can't go into this area'." Capt Eastough responded: "I can't answer that. I was given the task of showing the road and that's what I did."

The inquest continues.