Scrawled across every inch of wall in black marker pen were poems about death
and destruction, diatribes about the loss of friends, and ramblings about
fellow fallen soldiers. It was the most disturbing sign that the 29-year-old
was unrecognisable from the boy who had grown up in an academic Manchester
His brother Michael said his leg jittered constantly, and at night he paced
the floor screaming so loudly he woke his neighbours. He sobbed as he spoke
of the child’s head he had found in Kosovo, picking up bits of his friend’s
brain in Iraq and the faces of those he had killed.
Since being discharged from the Parachute Regiment he had been unable to cope
with “civvy street” and sought refuge in the private security
industry in Iraq.
“He used to be intelligent, mischievous and funny with a great sense of
humour,” Michael Fitzsimons, 26, said. “I was looking at my
brother who I loved to bits but I was frightened of him. He was volatile,
lost and lonely. He would say, ‘I am fucked up. I am gone. I have had a
pistol in my hand with one in the chamber and I have been close (to
suicide).’ He said to me: ‘I won’t make it past 30. I will either get shot
out there or kill myself.’ ”
The once proud Para fell into a world of drink and prescription drugs ?
medication to fend off the demons and help him sleep. He got in trouble with
the law and pushed his family away.
They wanted him to seek help. Instead they picked up the phone to a friend
last Sunday to be told they should check the news. Unaware that he was even
in Iraq, they read that he was accused of killing two fellow ArmorGroup
security contractors in Baghdad.
The Fitzsimons’s home on the outskirts of Manchester is a universe away from
the multibillion dollar contracts and violence of Iraq’s capital city.
Daniel’s father Eric and his stepmother Liz ? both teachers ? have been on
the phone for the past week.
Through his lawyer in the UK he claims his two Western colleagues had been
taunting him during a drinking session, and when they beat him he reached
for his gun. As he escaped he is alleged to have also shot an Iraqi worker
in the leg before being subdued by military police.
Mr and Mrs Fitzsimons are terrified their son is going to be rushed through
the Iraqi court system and face execution to avoid embarrassing the
controversial private security industry.
“We feel deeply for the two men who were shot and their families but
there is a third victim in this. He is very, very poorly. He should not have
got a paid post working for a private security firm,” Mrs Fitzsimons
said. “We are normal, law-abiding people. We are both teachers and his
mum is a librarian. We are upstanding pillars of the community. All we want
is for ArmorGroup to fund a good lawyer to get our British legal team out
there and to help us be there for him in court. I hate to think how
frightened he must feel now.”
Daniel Fitzsimons always wanted to join the Army and signed up at 16. He
completed tours of Bosnia and Kosovo with the 2nd Battalion, The Royal
Regiment of Fusiliers, where it appears his problem started.In Kosovo, the
young fusilier and his fellow soldiers befriended a local boy who would go
to the shops for them and in return they sewed Army badges on his T-shirt.
One day Mr Fitzsimons opened a fridge door to find the youngster’s chopped
remains covered in flies. It was among the many bodies, he told his family,
that he had to deal with.
In 2000, determined to take on a new challenge, he transferred to the 2nd
Battalion, The Parachute Regiment and saw tours in Northern Ireland,
Macedonia and Afghanistan.
“He talked about the Taliban and said: ‘I have been shot at loads of
times but these guys are completely different. You can tell by their faces
they really mean business,'” said his brother Michael.
In 2004 he drunkenly punched an officer, and was held back when his battalion
was sent to Iraq.
A psychiatric report at the time stated that he had combat stress ? an
adjustment disorder aggravated by alcohol. He was suffering from flashbacks,
nightmares, hypervigilance and a constant fear that he was going to be
attacked from behind. He talked of the smell of singed hair and the sound of
dripping water bringing back bad memories. Months later he was discharged
from the Army.
“He tried to work as a security guard at a bowling alley but he said they
were unprofessional. He couldn’t cope with normal life,” his brother
He signed on to work in the security industry and headed to Iraq working for
several companies including ArmorGroup. In one incident he was travelling in
a convoy when it was hit by a roadside bomb that killed the driver and
blasted a friend, who was seated next to him, to pieces. Daniel had to
collect and bag the body parts.
“It is clear to me that his time in the army was not half as bad as what
he has seen since. He got a lot worse in the last few years,” Michael
Fitzsimons said. On another occasion a convoy was ambushed and he was shot
in the foot while a friend was killed.
In 2007, after five months working for another security company, Aegis, he was
sacked for extreme negligence and fined $3,000 (£1,800).
He returned home a shattered man. Neighbours on the red-brick Manchester
estate where he kept a flat described him as endlessly polite and willing to
please, but tortured.
“He was a great guy, a daft bugger and such a good lad but he just
couldn’t cope with civvy street. The only life he knew was the Army and he
was lost without his friends. We could hear him shouting at night, “Para
down, para down,” said his friend Alan Grimshaw.
In May 2007, Mr Fitzsimons threatened a bus driver and robbed him of £20 in
change. A year later he was attacked by two men, but overcame and beat them.
He was arrested and held on remand for six months for assault. Police also
found ammunition in his flat from a previous tour of duty.
He told friends he was desperate to sort himself out. He ran 10 miles a day to
keep fit and tried to stay off the drink and drugs. But a psychiatric
assessment this year found his adjustment disorder was seriously aggravated
and he was suffering from nightmares and flashbacks.
“He had problems with post-traumatic stress disorder and adjustment
disorder but nothing had been done about it,” his legal caseworker John
Steven Wood, 21, a friend, said, “You look at pictures of him when he was
in the Army and he was always smiling but not in the later ones. He would
suffer flashbacks when he would yell ‘Cover fire! Para down!’ He talked
about losing friends. He said, ‘I’m a soldier. I was made to be a soldier
and that’s all I know.’ ”
In January, friends said, three Asian men tackled him at a train station and
he responded violently. He was arrested for assault and racially aggravated
assault. Three months later when he caught a group of teenagers trying to
damage his building he fired flares at them. In court, he pleaded guilty to
a public order offence. He was due to appear in court on 24 August to face
the assault charges.
But before he could get to court, he packed his bags and left for Iraq. He had
been there just 36 hours before the fatal shootings happened.
Mr Wood said that when Mr Fitzsimons told him he was heading back to Iraq, he
never believed that a company would take him on.
He added: “It is disgraceful. I didn’t think he would be allowed back. He
wasn’t well. He needed help.”
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