Iraq security guard: 'I was seconds away from death. I shot him twice in the chest. Bang bang'
A BRITISH security contractor has told an Iraqi court how he shot two colleagues, claiming that they had threatened to kill him and that he was acting in self-defence, after a drunken brawl in Baghdad's Green Zone.
Danny Fitzsimons, 30, told the court that he shot Scotsman Paul McGuigan, 37, in the chest and the face.
He said he is innocent of murder in the 2009 shooting, which left Mr McGuigan, from Peebles in the Borders, and Australian Darren Hoare dead.
Fitzsimons is the first westerner to be tried by an Iraqi court since the start of the Iraq war nearly eight years ago.
In an hour of dramatic testimony, Fitzsimons admitted to a three-judge panel that he shot the two ArmorGroup workers during a quarrel in the Green Zone.
He said all three men had been drinking whisky before the fight broke out.
He said he was held at gunpoint by Mr McGuigan while Mr Hoare, also 37, from Queensland, pushed him to the ground.
"I was seconds away from my death so I pulled my pistol," Fitzsimons testified, gesturing with his arms and body to show the judges how the fight occurred.
In court an Iraqi security guard repeatedly poked Fitzsimons to tell him to stop moving his body so wildly.
• Private firms in Iraq
"I shouted twice (for Mr McGuigan] to put down the weapon," Fitzsimons said.
"He didn't respond to my commands, my requests, so I made a decision. I shot him twice in the chest."
Then he acted out the shooting for the judges. "Bang, bang in his chest," Fitzsimons said.
Fitzsimons said he fired a third shot in Mr McGuigan's face, and got into a wrestling match with Mr Hoare.
Mr Hoare "was trying to push the pistol to my throat to kill me … and while we were wrestling I fired two shots in the chest," Fitz-simons said. "I made the decision and pulled the trigger."
Covered with blood, Fitz- simons fled the scene and was running toward the British Embassy when an Iraqi guard who was at a guard post pointed his rifle at him and asked him to stop.
Fitzsimons shot the guard in his left thigh.
He is charged with two counts of murder for shooting the British and Australian contractors and with attempting to kill the Iraqi guard. He could receive the death penalty if convicted on the murder charges.
In court yesterday, Fitzsimons stood behind a wooden fence with a security guard closely watching him.
He was clean shaven and wore a dark blue suit, grey tie and shirt.
He repeatedly asked the judges to let him talk about his mental condition after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by an Iraqi medical committee.But the judges refused, saying they were well aware of Fitzsimons's condition.
"This is not fair," Fitzsimons said. "I don't believe it is a fair trial."
Fitzsimons pleaded not guilty to the killings but asked the judges to consider a plea agreement that would convict him on manslaughter charges, which would carry far lesser penalties.
Iraqi law requires defendants to enter their formal pleas at the end of trial.
The judges' verdict is expected on 20 February after the court weighs whether Fitzsimons's mental condition should be considered in his defence.
Mr McGuigan's fiance, Nicci Prestage, 37, said Mr McGuigan had met Fitzsimons only a few hours before the shooting.
She denied that Mr McGuigan had been drunk and fighting.
"It is both frustrating and upsetting to hear there will be yet another delay before we have the outcome of the trial," Ms Prestage said.
"People have no idea of the agony victims and their families go through at times like this."
A friend, Fiona Gordon, added that Miss Prestage was "totally distraught" that her ordeal was set to drag on for another month.
She added: "The trial has been postponed so many times and she had psyched herself up for it finally being over today, but now she faces more uncertainty. The judge said he wants to obtain some more documents so we're waiting for them to come through.
"There's a possibility it could all be over earlier if the judge manages to get his hands on the documents sooner, but otherwise the next hearing is scheduled for 20 February."
Miss Prestage said the extent of her fiance's injuries, two shots to the chest and single killer shot through the mouth, amounted to an "execution".
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