Murder trial soldiers cleared

THE trial of seven British soldiers accused of murdering an Iraqi teenager, which has cost taxpayers an estimated £10 million, collapsed yesterday after a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to secure a conviction.

THE trial of seven British soldiers accused of murdering an Iraqi teenager, which has cost taxpayers an estimated £10 million, collapsed yesterday after a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to secure a conviction.

The soldiers, all members of the Colchester-based 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, were found not guilty of murder and violent disorder.

The soldiers were standing trial accused of murdering 18-year-old Nadhem Abdullah in an attack on a group of Iraqi civilians in al-Ferkah, 60 miles north of Basra, in May 2003.

Yesterday, Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett directed the military panel hearing at the court martial in Colchester to clear the seven defendants of all charges against them.

You may also want to watch:

He said: “In relation to all the defendants, after discarding the evidence that is too inherently weak or vague for any sensible person to rely on it, prosecution evidence taken at its highest is such that a reasonable jury or court martial board properly directed could never reach the high standard of proof required to be sure of the guilt of any defendant.

“In those circumstances it is my duty to remove the case from the board now and direct that they return verdicts of not guilty to the charge of murder against all seven defendants.”

Most Read

During the trial Martin Heslop QC, prosecuting, told the court that Mr Abdullah was an “innocent” teenager who died after being subject to a gratuitously violent attack during which the paratroopers used their rifle buts, helmets, fists and feet.

The cleared soldiers are Corporal Scott Evans, 32, Private Billy Nerney, 24, Samuel May, 25, Morne Vosloo, 26, Daniel Harding, 25, Roberto Di-Gregorio, 24, and Scott Jackson, 26.

Before directing the panel to clear the soldiers, Judge Blackett said he considered the investigation into the case had been “inadequate.”

He said: “It has been established during the course of the case that the investigators made serious omissions in not searching for records of hospital admissions or treatment and not establishing whether there was a register at Al Najaf shrine in which Nadhem's burial may have been recorded.”

Judge Blackett also said that the Iraqi witnesses had admitted using the case to obtain money from the British Army.

However, the Judge said he had no criticism to make of the prosecution or the Army prosecuting authority.

During the trial, he said it became clear that the main Iraqi witnesses had exaggerated and lied about the alleged incident.

Judge Blackett commiserated with Nadhem's family over his death, but said it would have been "a miscarriage of justice to blame these seven defendants collectively for that death".

A legal source at yesterday's hearing estimated it had cost £10 million to stage the trial.

Speaking after the decision, Rex Tedd, representing Corporal Evans, said: "These are very courageous men doing a very dangerous job in difficult circumstances.

"To have a charge as grave as this hanging over a man's head when he's a serving soldier is very difficult indeed.

"Corporal Evans will be going home today to his family with his head held high. His relief today is unlimited.'

Christopher Hill, Private Vosloo's solicitor, said: "It's been very difficult. It's been a terrible strain. I don't think it has quite sunk in that it is all over.'

Mr Hill said that Mr Vosloo had come from South Africa to join the British Army and remained "proud' of it.

"It is ironic that a few years ago he was playing cricket in South Africa with Kevin Pietersen. While Kevin Pietersen was winning the Ashes, my client had a murder charge hanging over him.'

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The trial of the soldiers and ex-soldiers for the murder of an Iraqi civilian Nadhem Abdullah on May 11 2003 ended today when the Judge Advocate directed the board to return not guilty verdicts in respect of all charges against them.

"The judge made clear that on the basis of the evidence provided very serious allegations had been made and that it was perfectly proper to take the matter to trial.

"Our soldiers are not above the law. It is right that allegations of this nature must be followed up and the evidence tested in full.

"This process is now complete and those soldiers still in the army will now return to regimental duty.

"We are studying the judge's remarks in detail to see what lessons can be learned.'

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus