The daughter who'll never see her father, as his murderer escapes gallows in Iraq
Danny Fitzsimons was yesterday ordered by an Iraqi court to spend 20 years in prison for murdering Paul McGuigan, a former Royal Marine from Innerleithen, Peeblesshire, and an Australian, Darren Hoare.
Fitzsimons could have faced the death penalty, and his Iraqi lawyer Tariq Harb said of the jail term: "This is a very good sentence. I saved him from the gallows."
The killer and his two victims had been working for private security firm ArmourGroup in August 2009. In court, Fitzsimons, 31, claimed a fight had broken out and he had been forced to shoot the two men with his pistol in self-defence.
Mr McGuigan, 37, and Mr Hoare were gunned down in Baghdad's Green Zone.
The Scot was shot twice in the chest and through the mouth. His fiance, Nicci Prestage, was so distraught when she learned of his death that she gave birth to their daughter, Elsie-Mai, five weeks early.
Ms Prestage said: "I have found some solace in the fact that Fitz-simons has been convicted of murder and not manslaughter by self-defence.
"There was no evidence to support a fight between Paul, Darren and Fitzsimons and the judge has recognised that."
Mr McGuigan's mother, Corinne Boyd-Russell, welcomed the sentence handed out by the Iraqi court. Speaking from her home in Innerleithen, the retired travel agent said the fact Fitzsimons had been convicted of murder also proved there was no evidence he had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, as he had claimed.
She said: "The true victims in this are Paul, his family and his little girl, who will never see her daddy. It is very hard to take it all in at the moment, but at least the sentence is now out of the way and we can try to move on."
Relatives of Fitzsimons said the former paratrooper had threatened to take his own life rather than serve his sentence in Baghdad's Rusafa prison, and they are pressing the Iraq authorities to allow him to carry out his term in the UK.
A friend of Ms Prestage told The Scotsman she was finding it difficult to accept the prospect of Fitzsimons being allowed to return to Britain. Fiona Gordon said: "She's been in a bad way, and she experienced a setback when the trial was previously adjourned."Now she's just contemplating the fact that he might be coming to Britain, and she's not feeling good about it."
Fitzsimons' stepmother, Liz, said she was "euphoric" he had avoided the death penalty, but added that she still had "massive concerns".
"Danny, for the last few weeks, has been constantly saying he cannot end up in Rusafa jail, which is the main jail out there," she said. "He said it's full of al-Qaeda, Taleban, Mujahideen, all of these people.
"He said, 'I will be a dead man if they put me in there'.
"We are trying very, very hard now to make sure he doesn't end up in Rusafa jail, because we are concerned for his safety. He has told us he will end his life before he goes in there."
A spokesman for the Foreign Office last night declined to comment on whether officials were planning to meet Fitzsimons' relatives, who are eager to see him serve his prison sentence in Britain.
He said: "There are currently no formal arrangements to transfer prisoners between the two countries.
"We would only consider a prisoner transfer once all a prisoner's appeal options have been exhausted. We are still a long way from that position, but we will consider all options in due course."
A spokesman for legal charity Reprieve said there was still a chance Fitzsimons could face the death penalty, because both the prosecution and defence have 30 days to decide whether to launch an appeal against the sentence.
He added ArmourGroup had been negligent as it carried out only minimal checks that failed to spot Fitzsimons' instability.
G4S, which owns ArmourGroup, said it was a "tragic case" and its thoughts were with the families of the dead men. It refused to comment on the trial or the evidence heard.