Poor planning in Iraq to blame for soldiers' deaths, says coroner

A coroner has severely criticised British army officers, saying their failure to plan was partly to blame for the capture and execution of two of their men in the early days of the Iraq war.

Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth, 36 and a father of two, and Sapper Luke Allsopp, 24, were murdered by Iraqi intelligence after being captured in an ambush when they strayed into dangerous territory.

The inquest into their deaths came as it emerged that another soldier had been killed in Iraq, bringing the toll to 119. A Royal Army Medical Corps soldier was killed on Sunday when 15 mortars were fired at a British base, with three hitting the compound. Within hours the base came under attack again. This time the rockets fell short, killing two small children, aged seven and three, and wounding another.

"This was a very serious indirect fire attack, and we have in recent weeks increased our security measures there, and were it not for these security measures we could have had more casualties", said Major Charlie Burbridge, the British forces spokesman in Basra.

The two-day inquest into the deaths of Staff Sgt Cullingworth and Spr Allsopp revealed the details of their last few hours alive as well as a catalogue of errors. The bomb disposal experts from 33 Engineer Regiment, on their way to clear a radio station, had taken a route on which the ITN journalist Terry Lloyd, 51, had been killed a day earlier - caught in the crossfire between US and Iraqi forces.

Instead of being told to skirt around the town of Az-Zubayr, in southern Iraq, they were ordered to go through the outskirts. When they took a wrong turn, it led them straight through the town where they were hit by a hail of bullets and a rocket-propelled grenade before being dragged from their vehicle.

The assistant deputy coroner for Oxfordshire, Andrew Walker, described the route the men took as "extremely dangerous" and added: "If the proper procedures had been followed then no one should have been allowed to use that route. Headquarters knew that it was a dangerous area and they were advising people not to go near that area on the 23rd."

As it emerged that two Iraqis had been arrested and were awaiting trial, the coroner returned a verdict that the soldiers had been unlawfully killed, "murdered by Iraqi intelligence personnel".

He added: "It was, in my opinion, inexcusable that the road they were supposed to be taking took them through the outskirts and exposed them to danger. The failure to adequately plan for and warn of the dangers in Az-Zubayr is, in my view, a contributory factor in their deaths."

The soldiers were in a two-vehicle patrol on 23 March 2003 when they were ambushed. They were still alive when they were taken to Ba'ath party headquarters. But, instead of receiving medical treatment as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions, they were filmed as they lay dying, surrounded by a mob.

The film was shown on al-Jazeera television, prompting a row when the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said they had been executed after the men's families were told that they had died in combat.

The coroner said: "Staff Sgt Cullingworth administered morphine to Spr Allsopp at some point. From there they were taken ostensibly to a hospital but, in fact, to an Iraqi military intelligence compound. They were shot and killed in that compound." The bodies were found three weeks later in shallow graves.

The court heard previously from Lance Corporal Marcus Clarke and L/Cpl Philip John Law, who had been in the vehicle behind but were unable to save their colleagues because of the ferocity of the attack. Despite the fact that each vehicle should have had a map, L/Cpl Law said Staff Sgt Cullingworth had the only one issued to them. After their capture, soldiers from the Black Watch fought into town to rescue them but found only the burnt-out Land Rover.

The inquest into Mr Lloyd's death begins today.

News
news

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney 'denied all knowledge' of the Twitter activity

News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
tech
News
people
Life and Style
tech Manband spurn Spotify to stream album exclusively with Google
News
Irradiated turkey and freeze dried mash potato will be on the menu this thanksgiving
video
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service / Breakdown Engineer - Stafford / Stoke

£27000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service and Breakd...

Langley James : Project Manager, Healthcare, Devon (6 month Contract) £500 pd

£425 - £525 per annum: Langley James : Project Manager, Healthcare, Devon - (6...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Operations Manager

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This growing outsourced IT comp...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services / Sales

£15000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?