Sergeant Alexander Blackman, 39, was told he would serve at least ten years for murdering the Afghan national in Helmand province in 2011. He has also been dismissed from the Marines in disgrace. But yesterday his commanding officer pledged his ‘full support’ for his comrade, saying Blackman had been ‘tainted’ by experiences described as ‘hell on earth.’
UK Daily Mail Last night a huge wave of support was swelling for the first British serviceman to be convicted of murder on active service abroad since the Second World War. One Facebook group has nearly 30,000 supporters and is calling for Blackman to be released. Another group has more than 10,000 followers.
The 6ft 3in commando was told by the country’s most senior military judge that his ‘brutal and savage’ crime had ‘betrayed’ Britain’s armed forces and ‘tarnished their reputation’. And he had ‘put at risk’ the lives of other UK troops and civilians by increasing the likelihood that Islamic extremists would carry out revenge attacks.
In a withering sentencing statement, Judge Blackett said: ‘You have provided ammunition to the terrorists whose propaganda portrays the British presence in Afghanistan as part of a war on Islam in which civilians are arbitrarily killed. ‘Committing this sort of act could well provoke the enemy to act more brutally towards British troops in retribution or reprisal.’
But in a letter read to the court, Lieutenant Colonel Simon Chapman, commanding officer of 42 Commando, said Blackman had faced ‘incomprehensible pressures with great fortitude and dignity’. ‘Furthermore, he has been dismissed with disgrace from the Royal Marines, with whom he has served proudly for 15 years. He is very sorry for any damage caused to the Royal Marines.’
The experienced commando thanked the public ‘for the support shown to him and his wife’. He is appealing the sentence. The court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire, heard Blackman was suffering from combat stress when he murdered the Taliban captive and was trying to deal with the grief of his father’s death months earlier.
He lost his cool near the end of a ‘tour from hell’, during which 23 servicemen from 3 Commando Brigade lost their lives and insurgents hung the limbs of maimed British troops in trees as ‘trophies’.
His badly injured
victim terrorist 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. Blackman shot the injured insurgent in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol in Afghanistan, then taunted him: ‘Shuffle off this mortal coil, you c***.’ It’s nothing you wouldn’t do to us.’
The commando, who completed six gruelling tours of Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland during 15 years with the Marines, was convicted of slaying the insurgent on September 15, 2011. He denied murder, claiming he thought the insurgent was already dead.
Sentencing Blackman, Judge Blackett said: ‘You treated that Afghan man with contempt and murdered him in cold blood. You have betrayed your corps and all British service personnel who have served in Afghanistan, and you have tarnished their reputation.