Blame stress, says family of Briton facing Iraq death sentence

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The Independent Online

A British security contractor accused of killing two colleagues in a drunken brawl had been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, his family revealed today.

Danny Fitzsimons, 29, who appeared before a court in Iraq on Monday, insisted later he was defending himself when he fatally shot fellow private security contractors Paul McGuigan and Darren Hoare, wounding Arkhan Mahdi.

Should he be charged with premeditated murder he could face execution in the first case of a westerner being tried in such circumstances since an agreement giving foreign workers immunity was lifted earlier this year.

Today his father Eric, stepmother Liz, and mother Beverley, said: "We are seeking funding in order to get a fair trial for Daniel, who served his country in Afghanistan and Iraq and left the Army suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder."

"This situation is every parent's worst nightmare. We have been unable to speak directly to Daniel and are currently in contact with the Foreign Office, Fair Trials Abroad and our local MP, Jim Dobbin," they added.

Mr Fitzsimons, left the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, four years ago and had been working in private security "on and off" in Iraq. On a social networking site he had talked of fighting "a war inside your head" and "a mental fight which will be tougher to win than any fight you've ever been in before". One friend insisted: "He's been through some very tragic and hard-core events and you know, seeing friends killed and colleagues killed has an effect on you."

Others suggested that he had a reputation for being aggressive and questioned whether Mr Fitzsimons, who had recently returned to ArmorGroup after a year off, should have been hired by the security company.

Interior ministry spokesman Major General Abdul-Kareem Khalaf said the three men had been drinking in a compound in the International Green Zone in Baghdad when a row broke out on Sunday morning. Mr Fitzsimons was said to have pulled out a Beretta pistol and fatally wounded Mr McGuigan and Mr Hoare , both 37, as they attempted to overpower him before injuring Mr Mahdi. He then fled, exchanging fire with security guards before being persuaded to drop his gun.

The former paratrooper later told an interpreter that he had only reached for his weapon after receiving a "real beating".

He appeared briefly before an Iraqi court on Monday to ascertain whether there was sufficient evidence to charge him, when the judge requested autopsy reports on both victims, the Associated Press reported. Spokesman Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar said: "If there is evidence, the case will be transferred to an Iraqi court for an official charge."

A spokesman for parent company G4S plc, said last night: "As there is an ongoing investigation by the Iraqi authorities and ArmorGroup regarding Mr Fitzsimons, we are unable to comment on anything specific regarding his employment with the company. "ArmorGroup has strong vetting and screening processes in place across the company and we undertake extensive research into the suitability of individuals to work in conditions such as those in Iraq."

Mr McGuigan, a 37-year-old father-of-one, who was expecting a second child, had been working as a security guard in Iraq since 2003. The former Royal Marine was described as "a man mountain", whose laughter and stories would be missed.

Mr Hoare, 37, from Queensland, served in Iraq as a member of the Royal Australian Air Force before starting work as a private security contractor. His partner Mollyjoe and three children were said to devastated.

Meanwhile Mr Mahdi, was said to be recovering in hospital.

The latest news came as another former paratrooper suffering from combat stress was jailed for two years for attacking a friend with a knife.

Kelvin Riley, 24, Liverpool Crown Court was told, had completed several tours in Iraq and continued to suffer flashbacks, drink heavily and take drugs after a parachute regiment colleague was killed in front of him by a roadside bomb. Only last week the former member of the 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, had learned of the death of another friend in Afghanistan.

The situation was exacerbated when he resigned from the army in 2007 for his pregnant partner, who left him after losing the baby, his barrister Philip Astbury said, adding that he had been "lost and desolate" and there was talk he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

The former soldier from Greater Manchester received a suspended sentence last February for being a passenger in a stolen car but just five weeks later attacked a close friend with a knife in an unprovoked attack. He admitted wounding and was imprisoned today.