Danny Fitzsimons hired by security firms despite ‘worrying’ psychiatric reports
Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 4, 2009
The trial of Danny Fitzsimons, a former paratrooper, is due to
begin in Baghdad tomorrow.
A British security contractor who faces a death sentence if convicted of murdering two fellow security guards in Baghdad was employed by several British security companies despite psychiatric assessments dating back to 2004 that diagnosed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in him, The Times has learnt.
The trial of Danny Fitzsimons, a former paratrooper, is due to begin in Baghdad tomorrow. He is charged with the deaths of fellow security guards, Paul McGuigan, a Briton, and Darren Hoare, an Australian, in a trial that has raised new concerns over the regulation of the huge private security industry in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The psychiatric assessments of Mr Fitzsimons, seen by The Times, show that he was first given a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in January 2004, while still serving in the British Army. Subsequent assessments by consultant psychiatrists in May 2008 and June 2009 reported that the symptoms had worsened.
The reports were commissioned by his legal defence teams when Mr Fitzsimons was facing previous charges of violent behaviour in the British courts.
The most recent report, which diagnoses full-blown PTSD, was made only two months before Mr Fitzsimons was sent back to Baghdad by the security company ArmorGroup. He is accused of shooting dead two fellow security guards during a drunken argument within 36 hours of arriving.
The reports detail a pattern of extreme behaviour, alcohol and drug abuse as Mr Fitzsimons struggled to deal with experiences he had as a soldier. In the report from January 23 2004, he told a consultant psychiatrist that he had not felt “completely well from a mental and physical point of view” since his service in Kosovo in 1999, when he was involved in the discovery of several mass graves.
The report details “unpleasant and highly vivid visual recollections of active military service . . . triggered by specific stimuli, including the smell of singed hair and the characteristic sound of dripping water”. The doctor assessed that one incident was particularly relevant: “He was ordered to explore a group of small, dimly lit buildings. Upon entry, he recalls seeing a heavy-duty deep freeze, the lid of which he lifted. Inside, he recalls seeing transparent blue plastic bags, through which the corpse of a male child, of approximately 11 years of age, was clearly visible. The limbs and head had clearly been dismembered and arranged.”
Four years later, on May 8, 2008, Mr Fitzsimons was again assessed by a clinical psychiatrist who diagnosed the symptoms of PTSD. “He does not sleep for more than two or three hours at a time,” the doctor wrote.
“His sleep is interrupted and broken by vivid dreams and nightmares about his past experiences. He has memories and visions of screaming colleagues, especially one who was burnt to death.”
Mr Fitzsimons reported that he suffered repeated flashbacks accompanied by fear and continuous anxiety. He also reported difficulties relating to people around him.
By June 30 2009, when the last assessment was carried out, Mr Fitzsimons’s symptoms had multiplied and he appeared to be struggling to cope with normal life. He told the assessing doctor that he had chronic problems with alcohol and drugs. The doctor concluded that he had PTSD and recommended therapy.
There was no response from Aegis or Olive Group to requests for information about Mr Fitzsimons, or any information on their vetting procedures for security guards.
A spokesman for ArmorGroup said that Mr Fitzsimons provided forged documents to the company about his physical and mental wellbeing.
Mr Fitzsimons’s stepmother, Liz Fitzsimons, said that they felt let down by both the Army and the security companies he had worked for: “ArmorGroup have told us that he told lies on his application form, but I say they should have done better checks. I am cross with the Army. He saw all these horrendous things, which turned him into what he is now, and then they didn’t want him.”