An army major who has faced eight separate investigations spanning 17 years over the death of an Iraqi teenager has been cleared by a senior judge who concluded that witnesses conspired against the war veteran.
Major Robert Campbell, 47, last night voiced anger over the “witch-hunt” that he has endured, saying: “It finished me, it finished my career.”
Bomb disposal expert Campbell, along with two junior colleagues, was accused of forcing Said Shabram into a river in Basra in May 2003 and leaving the 19-year-old to drown.
But former Court of Appeal judge Baroness Hallett has concluded that Campbell jumped in to try to save the teen, but then became the victim of a conspiracy which “likely began on the day Shabram died”.
Her Iraq Fatality Investigations (IFI) report says that “a number of civilian witnesses” who came forward to give evidence against Campbell were “inherently unreliable”, and the military was aware witnesses “had colluded and were dishonest” as long ago as 2006.
The findings “raise serious questions over why the major’s ordeal lasted a further 14 years”, says The Telegraph.
The 88-page IFI report concludes that it was “most likely” that Shabram “jumped or fell” into the river while trying to escape what he believed would be “dire punishment for looting” electric cables.
The verdict follows previous investigations by “the Royal Military Police twice, the Army Prosecuting Authority, the Aitken Report inquiry, the Iraq Historic Allegations Team and the director of service prosecutions”, The Times reports.
Campbell said yesterday that he felt “cautiously optimistic that it’s over” – despite, as the paper points out, “having been told that numerous times in the past”.
Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer, a former army officer, has also welcomed the verdict, saying: “I hope these findings will bring some closure and reassurance to the family and veterans involved in this process. Nobody wants to see service personnel or veterans facing extensive reinvestigations into the same incident.”
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