Defense Base Act Compensation Blog

The Modern Day DBA Casualty

Danny Fitzsimons: The cost of violence

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on January 30, 2010

Is a British former soldier about to be tried in Iraq over the shootings of two colleagues a cold-blooded killer or the victim of post-traumatic stress disorder?

Jonathan Owen talks to Danny Fitzsimons

It is three in the morning and pitch black. Danny Fitzsimons is standing in the darkness of a filthy toilet – hiding from his guards – next to the jail cell he shares with 13 men. The 29-year-old former Paratrooper turned mercenary has spent the past five months in the Karabat Maryam police station in Baghdad, after allegedly shooting dead two of his colleagues and seriously wounding an Iraqi guard.

“When I sleep I have nightmares, so I sit up and stay awake because I’m scared,” he says, whispering into a mobile phone. He thinks it best not to say how he obtained it. In a hoarse, hushed voice he tells of terrible things he claims to have seen during his years in the Army and then as a mercenary.

He swears, appropriately enough, like a trooper: he is on edge, with good reason. His life is in the hands of the Iraqi authorities: the usual punishment for murder is the death penalty. Hanging is the preferred method.

“I hallucinate constantly,” he says. “It’s compounded by this place. There’s nowhere to escape to. Back home, I’d just get smashed: I’d just blot it out. But out here there’s nothing I can do.” What he must do is convince an Iraqi court that these hallucinations are reason enough not to execute him if he is found guilty of killing his two former colleagues. Earlier this month an Iraqi judge ruled that psychiatric reports be produced on Mr Fitzsimons prior to the start of the trial. These will be done over the next two weeks.

His trial will also highlight the issue of military veterans, many of whom – traumatised as they are by what they have seen in battle – find it hard to get work on “civvy street” and end up taking well-paid work as soldiers for hire.

According to Mr Fitzsimons, he is one of many: “There are thousands of mercenaries out here, private military guys like myself who are suffering from the same thing that I am… It’s rife.”

Veteran private security operatives claim the sheer number of security companies now operating in Iraq has driven down wages and the quality of personnel. Mix these factors into a cocktail of weapons and alcohol and the only surprise is that there are not more tragedies.

Read the full story here

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