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Last Updated: Monday, 2 October 2006, 19:28 GMT 20:28 UK
Iraq soldiers unlawfully killed
Sapper Luke Allsopp and Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth
Sapper Luke Allsopp and Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth died
Two soldiers ambushed in Iraq were unlawfully killed by Iraqi military intelligence, a coroner has ruled.

The bodies of Sgt Simon Cullingworth, 36, and Sapper Luke Allsopp, 24, were found in a shallow grave outside Basra.

The inquest heard the men were still alive after the ambush on the outskirts of the town of Al Zubayr in March 2003.

They were dragged from their Land Rover to a local Baath Party HQ and then to an Iraqi intelligence base. The coroner said they were not "adequately warned".

Coroner Andrew Walker said the route the soldiers had taken had been the site of another ambush on British forces the day before, and the danger in which they were being put should have been "anticipated".

The "failure to adequately plan for and warn of the dangers was, in my view, a contributory factor to their deaths", he said.

Morphine

The men died of gunshot wounds in the Iraqi military intelligence compound.

They were shot and killed in that compound
Coroner Andrew Walker

Their bodies were found just under a month later, buried in shallow graves at a fourth location not far from the town.

The coroner said: "They were ambushed and taken to a temporary Baath party headquarters where evidence suggests that they were both alive.

"Staff Sgt Cullingworth administered morphine to Sapper Allsopp at some point.

"From there they were taken ostensibly to a hospital but, in fact, to an Iraqi military intelligence compound.

"They were shot and killed in that compound."

'Keep up, keep up'

Sapper Allsopp, from north London, and Sgt Cullingworth, from Essex, were both in the 33 Engineer Regiment - a specialist bomb disposal unit of the Royal Engineers.

Both had died of gunshot wounds fired from at least two rifles and one pistol, the inquest heard.

L/Cpl Marcus Clarke, who was driving the Land Rover behind when it was hit with a "hail of bullets", told the court he had heard Sgt Cullingworth shouting: "Keep up, keep up", over the radio as they had driven into the ambush.

He told the inquest how their attackers - dressed in black clothing - ran towards the vehicles while still maintaining heavy fire.

The two soldiers were unable to escape and were subsequently captured by the Iraqi fighters.

Two held

Under the Geneva Convention, the men should have been treated as prisoners of war and offered medical treatment for their wounds, the inquest heard.

However, photographs shown to the court featured the men bleeding heavily "without any obvious medical help".

Last week, the court heard photographs had been taken of the men at the compound as they lay dying surrounded by a "watching mob".

Some of this footage was later shown on Arabic television channel al-Jazeera.

And after that, a complaint against the BBC was upheld when a programme about al-Jazeera showed a picture of the men's bodies.

The families, who were informed the men were killed in combat, then received an apology from the government after Tony Blair suggested they had been "executed".

Two men are currently being held in Iraq in connection with the killings, pending a decision by an investigating judge.




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