Fiancée hits out as Iraqi trial adjourned until February 20

THE fiancée of Peebles man Paul McGuigan has spoken of her frustration that the trial of his alleged killer has been delayed until next month, writes Kenny Paterson.

Danny Fitzsimons, 30, is accused of murdering 37-year-old Mr McGuigan and Darren Hoare of Australia when all three were private security guards in Iraq in 2009.

The court was expected to reach a verdict on Sunday, but the case was adjourned again until February 20 to consider the accused’s mental state.

Mr McGuigan’s fiancée, Nicci Prestage, 37, said: “It is both frustrating and upsetting to hear there will be yet another delay before we have the outcome of the trial.

“People have no idea of the agony victims and their families go through at times like this.”

The case has already faced several delays as the court considers whether to allow Fitzsimons’s previous diagnosis of post-traumatic stress syndrome to be allowed into evidence.

Fitzsimons’s dramatic testimony on Sunday in a Baghdad court saw the former soldier claim he shot former Royal Marine Mr McGuigan and Mr Hoare in self defence after they had threatened to kill him.

Standing behind a wooden fence with a security guard looking on, he said all three men had been drinking whisky before the fight broke out in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone.

He said he was held at gunpoint by Mr McGuigan while Mr Hoare pushed him to the ground.

“I was seconds away from my death so I pulled my pistol,” claimed Fitzsimons, gesturing with his arms and body to show the judges how the fight occurred.

“I shouted twice (for Mr McGuigan) to put down the weapon,” Fitzsimons, of Greater Manchester, 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.

He said 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,” Fitzsimons said. “I made the decision and pulled the trigger.”

Covered with blood, Fitzsimons 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’s response was to shoot the guard in his left thigh. 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.

Fitzsimons responded: “This is not fair. I don’t believe it is a fair trial.”

He denies committing murder, but asked the judges to consider a plea agreement that would convict him on manslaughter charges.

This offence carries lesser penalties than the death sentence he could receive if convicted on murder charges.

Iraqi law requires defendants to enter their formal pleas at the end of trial.

Ms Prestage denied her fiancée had been drunk and fighting with Fitzsimons, and said he had only met the accused a few hours before the shooting.

She said the extent of her fiancee’s injuries, two shots to the chest and single shot through the mouth, amounted to an “execution”.