Dead Iraq hostages had been shot

Two British hostages in Iraq who died while being held by kidnappers in Iraq were believed to have been shot, forensic tests have established.

It was initially thought that one of the two men, Jason Swindlehurst and Jason Creswell had committed suicide while the other had died from natural causes. The reason for the delay in diagnosing the cause of death, according to defence sources is that the bodies were buried in shallow graves, had been disturbed, and were in a bad condition.

The development raised fresh concern about the fate of the remaining hostages, computer expert Peter Moore and two security guards Alan from Scotland and Alec from South Wales.

It has been rare in Iraq for Shia militias, who are believed to have abducted the men, to harm Western hostages. One, unconfirmed version of events was that they were killed by their captors while attempting to escape.

Inquests into the deaths of security Mr Swindlehurst, 38, and Mr Creswell, 39, are likely to be opened next week, a spokesman for the Wiltshire Coroner said. He added that post-mortem examinations had yet to be concluded but added that it was likely that the men had died from gunshot wounds.

"They had suffered gunshot wounds," he said. "I can't deny that the likelihood is that they died from gunshot wounds."

The spokesman said the families of the two men were being kept informed of developments.

Mr Creswell, originally from Glasgow, and Mr Swindlehurst, from Skelmersdale, Lancashire, were among a group of five Britons kidnapped in Baghdad on May 29, 2007.

A group of 40 armed men wearing police uniforms seized the hostages, at an Iraqi Finance Ministry building in Baghdad. Their captors from the Asaib Ahl al-Haq had demanded the release of prisoners affiliated to their group being held by the Americans.