Iraqi police may have murdered British sergeant, Army admits

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The Independent Online

Army officials have admitted that Iraqi police may have been implicated in the death of a British sergeant, but no one is likely to be brought to justice.

Just weeks into his second tour of Iraq, Sgt John Jones, 31, of the 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was killed by a roadside bomb as he commanded a routine patrol in Basra. Four other soldiers were injured.

A charismatic, compassionate man with a sharp sense of humour, Jonah, as he was known to his friends, was killed in what John Reid, who was Defence Minister at the time, described as a "barbaric act of terrorism".

It was revealed yesterday, however, that Sgt Jones was one of several British soldiers murdered by Iraqi police. Just a week after the anniversary of his death, his parents received a report from the Army that appeared to suggest his killer or killers may have been among the same Iraqi security forces the British have been training.

Describing the moment of Sgt Jones's death on 20 November 2005 as his patrol was heading back to the Shatt al-Arab base, it read: "It was observed at this point that there were a number of unknown Iraqi males wearing Iraqi Police Service and military uniforms and that they were observing the scene from the Port Authority area. An Iraqi Police Service car was seen to turn around and head away from the scene, back the way it had come."

Sgt Jones's mother, Carol, 60, said she was devastated by a covering letter from the Army's directorate of personal services, which added: "The jurisdiction for the case was handed over to the Iraqi Police. As yet, no one has been detained in connection with your son's death.

"However, as a cautionary note, I would say that, based on other similar circumstances, there is not a hugely realistic chance of this happening."

Mrs Jones, from Tamworth in Warwickshire, added: "A lad who was with John told us it was definitely Iraqi police. There was nobody else in the street. It was uncannily quiet. At his inquest, they said no one was investigated because they had got ID on them. One of the policemen had a mobile phone or remote [which could set off a roadside bomb] but he had ID on him so he just walked away.

"I have spoken to other mothers - three at least - who are waiting for reports and been told by the Army the police are the killers. It is frightening. They can't be vetting them properly."

Mrs Jones, who recently suffered a stroke, said the latest news had left her terribly shaken, adding: "I thought I was coming to terms with it. But when I read this report I just went to pieces. I have not slept. I can't even eat. I just want somebody brought to justice. I just want to ask the Army why aren't they out there looking for the people who did this?

"If I was well enough to get on a plane I would go over there and find him myself. It is heart-breaking. He had a five-year-old son. We feel so terribly frustrated."

The Ministry of Defence has long claimed that Britain's exit strategy from Iraq relies on building a strong Iraqi police and army, trained by the military. Senior officers have now conceded that there is a "small rotten core" within the Basra police. Locals, however, have long claimed that the force is heavily infiltrated by insurgents and responsible for the vast majority of murders in Iraq's second city.

Mrs Jones continued: "Tony Blair tells us that our soldiers are protecting the Iraqi people but they obviously don't want us there if they are killing us.

"John loved the Army but I don't think he would have joined if he thought that he would die like this."

The Ministry of Defence said in a statement last night: "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Sgt Jones. Any further investigation into the events surrounding Sgt Jones's death must be handled by the Iraqi authorities. The UK and coalition forces will continue to offer support to the Iraqis on this matter.''