‘Once a Marine, always a Marine’, says UK’s top commando as he backs killer sergeant and survey shows public also support him
Britain’s top commando has vowed to stand by the sergeant convicted of executing a severely-wounded Taliban prisoner, declaring: ‘Once a marine, always a marine.’
Major General Ed Davis risked a clash with military top brass by issuing the message of support on the day the 39-year-old – identified only as Marine A – was found guilty of murder.
His comments to the 8,300-strong Royal Marines are at odds with those from General Sir Nick Houghton, the head of the Armed Forces, who said there should be ‘no leniency’ for Marine A because of his ‘heinous crime’.
Maj Gen Davis, who led 3 Commando Brigade in Afghanistan at the time when the unknown captive was shot dead, said: ‘We will hold true to our duty of care and responsibility for this member of the corps family, and his family, as he serves out his sentence.
‘Our mantra of “once a marine, always a marine” is not conditional.’
His stance was revealed as a poll revealed that more people believed the commando should be treated with clemency than thought he should receive a mandatory life sentence for the murder.
Some 47 per cent of those quizzed by ICM agreed that Marine A should be given a shorter sentence because ‘the law should make an exception for a soldier serving on the frontline’. However, 35 per cent think he should receive the full life term.
Maj Gen Davis is under pressure from his officers to submit statements of mitigation to the court martial when Marine A is sentenced next month DEC.
Some commanders in the marines want him to be treated like soldiers convicted of killing civilians in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, who were not dismissed from the military.
This would allow the sergeant, who serves with 42 Commando, to receive his salary and his family to retain other perks.
A Royal Marines officer said: ‘If Marine A’s family are evicted from their home and forced on to benefits, it will make them victims and cause an outcry.’
His unit commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Neil Sutherland, is expected to submit an ‘operational effectiveness impact statement’ to the court setting out Marine A’s chances of returning to duty after completing his sentence.
A defence source said: ‘These are usually the key to dissuading military judges from issuing sentences demanding dismissal from service, so it is very important whether the chain of command of Royal Marines says he has a future in uniform.’
Marine A killed the insurgent in September 2011 near the end of a ‘tour from hell’, during which 23 servicemen from 3 Commando Brigade were killed and the Taliban hung the blown off limbs of maimed British troops in trees as ‘trophies’.
He shot the unknown man in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol, then taunted him: ‘Shuffle off this mortal coil, you c***.’
His badly injured victim had been found with an AK47 assault rifle and grenade after an Apache helicopter blitzed him with cannon fire following an attack on a British base.
Harrowing film and audio recordings of the ‘field execution’ in a cornfield, captured on a helmet-mounted camera worn by a comrade, were played to a court martial.
Marine A denied murder, claiming he thought the insurgent was already dead. His co-accused, known as Marine B and C, were cleared of the charge.
The commando, a 15-year veteran who had done six tours of Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, was found guilty after a two-and-a-half week trial.
He is the first serviceman to be convicted of murder on active service abroad since the Second World War.
Several retired commanders, including Major General Julian Thompson, who led the elite commandos in the Falklands War, have called for leniency when Marine A is sentenced.
Supporters believe the seven-strong board of military personnel who decide his fate must take into account the unimaginable horror, stress and provocation he endured in the weeks leading up to the killing.
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