Published on
The Independent/UK

The Human Timebomb: Why Was He Given Iraq Job?

Terri Judd

Daniel Fitzsimons, 29, is in Iraqi custody facing charges of premeditated murder after the shooting of fellow ArmorGroup colleagues Paul McGuigan and Darren Hoar and wounding Iraqi worker Arkhan Mahdi. If convicted he faces execution. (File)

A British military contractor accused of shooting
dead two of his colleagues in Iraq was hired despite being sacked from
another security firm and having a long history of psychiatric illness,
The Independent has learnt.

Fitzsimons, 29, is in Iraqi custody facing charges of premeditated
murder after the shooting of fellow ArmorGroup colleagues Paul McGuigan
and Darren Hoar and wounding Iraqi worker Arkhan Mahdi. If convicted he
faces execution.

Last night, in an interview
with The Independent, his family revealed that just months before being
hired by ArmorGroup, a psychiatric report had found Mr Fitzsimons was
suffering from severe post-traumatic stress with repeated flashbacks,
nightmares and anxiety attacks.

He had also been dismissed by the security firm
Aegis while working in Iraq for "extreme negligence". At the time he
was taken on by ArmorGroup he was awaiting trial for assault having
already been convicted of three other crimes including robbery,
possession of ammunition and public order offences. The incident
happened within 36 hours of Mr Fitzsimons arriving back in Iraq.

night his father and stepmother, both teachers from Manchester, said
others also bore responsibility for what happened: "We did not even
know he had gone out there," they said. "He patently should not have
been allowed to go to Iraq. He is extremely poorly."

last night said they could not comment on the specific allegations due
to the ongoing investigation and added: "Under our terms of employment,
employees are obliged to provide a medical certificate prior to posting
overseas that confirms they are fit to do so."

Mike Hancock, the longest-serving member of the Commons defence select
committee, said he would be pressing for an early investigation into
the controls on private defence firms.

unacceptable for any security company to take on any former member of
the armed forces without thorough medical checks and pre-counselling.
We need to legislate. Companies that recruit in the UK should be
covered by British laws and have a responsibility to check the mental
health wellbeing of the people they take on."

the interview Mr Fitzsimons's father, Eric, and stepmother, Liz, said
their son had been diagnosed with a form of stress disorder when he was
discharged from the army five years ago. But this had been exacerbated
by repeated tours with security companies in Iraq in which he had been
injured and lost countless friends to bombs. A recent assessment had
found his condition had worsened.

Mr Fitzsimons
said his son should be recognised as another victim of the shooting.
"We do feel very, very sorry for these two men and their families. But
Daniel is also a victim."

The couple explained
the family were terrified that he would be made an example of for a
multi-billion dollar industry, whose employees recently lost immunity
following a shootout involving US security firm Backwater in which 17
civilians were killed.

"We are worried the trial will be rushed through and he will be made a scapegoat. We can't let that happen."

family said that Mr Fitzsimons was discharged from the 2nd Battalion,
The Parachute Regiment after tours in Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland
and Afghanistan. But they insisted it was the dangerous work that he
carried out for private security companies in Iraq that had sent him on
a dramatic spiral downwards exacerbated by drink and prescription

The company have agreed to the
family's request to send out their own British legal team to Baghdad
adding thar ArmorGroup were making arrangement for an English speaking
Iraqi lawyer as well.

Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a
former Army officer, called for regular checks on defence companies'
recruitment policies. He said: "They need to be audited in terms of
what strictures they apply to the people they recruit. The Government
must be involved in that."

Mr Mercer, chairman
of the Commons counter-terrorism sub-committee, said the performance of
such firms in checking staff were "mentally grounded" was "very mixed".

He added: "I have always argued that the discharge of veterans should be very carefully handled."

Fitzsimons's MP, Jim Dobbin, said last night: "Questions have to be
asked about why he was out there, did the company know he had
psychological problems, and that he was suffering from post traumatic
stress disorder. Quite honestly if it did know of that, then it must be

Christopher Beese, director of human
resources at ArmorGroup, said: "ArmorGroup has a duty of care to Daniel
Fitzsimons as an employee and we are discharging those

"Senior managers are
visiting him daily to ensure his human rights are being met, that he is
safe, and has an opportunity to communicate with his family and with
his lawyer.

"Yesterday he was visited by an
ArmorGroup team and representatives of the UK embassy, and provided
with medical care, food, water and access to a mobile phone. The
company is making arrangements for his UK legal representative to
travel to Iraq safely and securely as soon as possible."

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