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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
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

SEN Learning Support Assistant

£60 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Youth Support Workers Glouceste...

IT Technician - 1st Line

£19000 - £21000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPOR...

PPA Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Primary Teaching Jobs Available NOW-Southport

£80 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: **Due to an increase in dema...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London