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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 May, 2003, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
'Executed' soldier is buried
Funeral of Simon Cullingworth
Simon Cullingworth was brought to the churchyard by a guard of honour

A bomb disposal officer, feared to have been executed during the war in Iraq, was buried with full military honours on Tuesday.

Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth, 36, of Wimbish, Essex, was laid to rest following a funeral service at All Saints Church, Wimbish.

More than 250 mourners were at the service, including relatives, friends and Army colleagues, who watched as he was buried in the churchyard and a 12 gun salute was fired in his honour.

News that Staff Sergeant Cullingworth had been promoted to Sergeant Major three days after he went missing was disclosed by one of the soldier's commanding officers following his funeral.

'Backbone of the British Army'

Major Alec Campbell, second in command of his regiment, said: "I would have expected him to have become Regimental Sergeant Major - he was of that calibre."

"He was meticulous in the way he ran his troop.

"He was thoroughly reliable - the sort of man who is the backbone of the British Army."

Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth
Simon Cullingworth: Full military honours

Mourners were led by his wife Allison and his son Matthew, eight. The couple's other son, Jack, three, did not attend.

Staff Sergeant Cullingworth was a member of 33 Engineer Regiment, which is based at Wimbish.

He and another bomb disposal officer, Sapper Luke Allsopp, 24, of Dagenham, east London, went missing on March 23 after their Land Rover, which was part of a convoy, was ambushed.

Their remains were found a month later in a shallow grave near Al Zubayr, about 15 miles south of Basra in southern Iraq - near to the spot where they had disappeared.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the men had been "executed".

But the family of Sapper Allsopp told newspapers that the Ministry of Defence had told them that the two soldiers had died in combat.

An Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said on Tuesday that the circumstances of the men's death was still under investigation.

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