This blog was written by Paul Martin, Editor-in-Chief of ConflictZones.tv.
Strange things happen inside Baghdad’s Green Zone - a heavily fortified and powerfully patrolled area that makes attacks by militants less likely to succeed.
Exactly four years ago there was a double killing there. A British and an Australian security officer, killed by one of their own men, an English former paratrooper called Danny Fitzsimons. It had all stemmed from a whisky-stoked set of brawls that led to Fitzsimons being confronted in his room.
In 2011, I somehow got tangled up in the aftermath of that event while filming a documentary. Iraq's most feared secret armed unit, the 56th Brigade, ordered me to be locked up because they said I did not have the right permit to enter the zone.
During four days and nights in a police cell, I was intrigued by a cardboard sign wedged behind some pipes. It was a slightly mis-spelled quote from a Dire Straits song called ‘Brothers in Arms'. I later discovered it was Danny Fitzsimons who had put it up there.
He had spent two years in that cell charged with murder. Earlier in 2011, he had left "my" cell after finally being sentenced to 20 years in an Iraqi jail.
The cops who held Fitzsimons say he was strange but nice. Danny's defence team and parents say he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. They say he was facing a charge in the UK for pulling a gun on some youths and had been messed up by years of service in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. He had witnessed terrible scenes, like discovering the butchered body of a child he had befriended. He had apparently lied about his record in order to get employed for this, his fourth contract with an Iraq-based security firm.
I managed to liberate Danny's Dire Straits sign from the police cell and, amazingly, just weeks ago, I was able to tell Danny this story face to face. Thanks to the Ministry of Justice I was being allowed to meet him during a visit by a brave British priest, Andrew White, whom I am filming for another documentary. It took us hours to travel there due to endless security, road blocks and potential terrorist attacks.
It was impossible to assess Danny's prison conditions as we were only allowed to meet him in the Governor’s office, which had been beautifully decorated, the Governor said, by the inmates. The prison had been set up by the Americans as Camp Cropper, and still looked neat and well-run.
He remembered every word he had written on that piece of cardboard. He said the lyrics symbolised how some of his "brothers-in-arms" had deserted him while others unexpectedly had given him support.
Thanks to Canon White, Danny has found solace in religion. But he finds prison life among purely Arabic-speaking inmates, some of whom are very hostile to British ex-soldiers, to be soul-destroying. He shows considerable remorse for the killings, but believes he was framed for what he thinks was self defence in a struggle, not a cold-blooded double murder. My interview with him is very revealing - a controversial scoop.
On one thing, though, everyone seems to agree: With a history of trauma suffered in conflict, and on bail for an assault in the UK, Fitzsimons should never have been allowed to work for private security contractors in Iraq, let alone pick up weapons and have unlimited access to alcohol.
It is not surprising he ended up in Dire Straits.
- You can watch the interview with Danny Fitzsimons on the ITV News at 10pm