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OUR LUKE WAS NOT EXECUTED

Mar 28 2003

By Stephen Moyes and James Hardy

 

THE heartbroken sister of ambushed soldier Luke Allsopp insisted last night: "My brother was not executed."

Nina Allsopp hit out at "lies" surrounding his death.

Grieving Nina - 29 today - said: "We have been told by the Army that Luke died in action.

VICTIM: Luke

"The Colonel from his barracks came around to our house to tell us he was not executed. Luke's Land Rover was ambushed and he died instantly.

"The Colonel told us he was doing what he could to set the record straight. We are very angry.

"It makes a big difference to us knowing that he died quickly. We can't understand why people are lying about what happened.

"It must be a mistake. It's important to us that people know the truth. That people know what really happened."

Nina was stunned when she heard the PM had gone on TV to denounce the "executions" of Sapper Luke, 24, and Staff Sgt Simon Cullingworth, 36.

Mr Blair, speaking in America, condemned gruesome footage of the dead soldiers shown on Iraqi TV as an act of cruelty beyond comprehension.

Describing the images as a "reality" of Saddam Hussein's regime he said: "His thugs prepared to kill their own people, the parading of prisoners of war, and now the release of those pictures of executed British soldiers...

"If anyone needed any further evidence of the depravity of Saddam's regime, this atrocity provides it.

"It is yet one more flagrant breach of all the proper conventions of war.

"More than that, to the families of the soldiers involved, it is an act of cruelty beyond comprehension. Indeed, it is beyond the comprehension of anyone with an ounce of humanity in their souls."

VICTIM: Staff Sgt Simon Cullingworth's job was to clear mines laid by retreating Iraqis

The PM added: "On behalf of the British Government, I would like to offer my condolences particularly to the families and friends of those two brave young men who died in the service of their country and of the ordinary Iraqi people to whom we are determined to bring a better future."

And today Downing Street insisted the soldiers"may well have been" executed. (More...)

But last night Nina said at the family's home in Dagenham, Essex: "I have not been able to watch the TV reports or listen to the Prime Minister talking of an execution.

"It's so upsetting. And it's not what happened to Luke."

Later Mr Blair refused to give further details of what he knew about the soldiers' deaths.

Pressed by reporters about his claim they were executed, he would only say: "The reason I used the language I did was because of the circumstances that we know."

Respected TV political editor Adam Boulton was one of those who quizzed Mr Blair at Camp David over his claim.

He commented on Sky News last night: "Whether it was wise for the Prime Minister to use a word like 'execute' without being entirely sure only time will tell."

Mr Blair's official spokesman later admitted there was no conclusive proof that the soldiers had been executed.

He said: "It is a terrible thing to talk in these terms, but since we don't have the two bodies we can't be absolutely sure.

"But every piece of information we have points in the direction of these men having been executed in a very brutal fashion.

"It includes the fact that the two bodies were found some distance from the vehicles in which they were travelling and had lost their protective equipment, flak jackets and helmets. It does point in that direction."

ANGER: Tony Blair yesterday

A spokeswoman for the MoD agreed that it was likely the soldiers had been executed. She said: "They were found without their protective equipment, which suggests they could have been executed."

But Iraq strongly denied the claim. Information Minister Mohammad Saeed al-Sahaf accused Mr Blair of twisting the truth.

He said when Iraq released pictures of the soldiers "the situation became tense in Britain because the British Prime Minister lied to the public".

He added: "To launch a psychological war on us he said, 'You have executed (them)'.

"We haven't executed anyone.

They are either killed in the battlefield or the rest are captured."

Iraqi TV showed the dead soldiers lying on their backs near their vehicle. One appeared to have been shot in the chest while the other's wounds were unclear.

British military commanders were "shocked and appalled" by the graphic images. The commander of

UK forces in the Gulf, Air Marshal Brian Burridge, described the decision to show them as "deplorable". He added: "All media must be aware of the limits of taste and decency."

Sapper Luke and Staff Sgt Cullingworth were members of 33 Engineer Regiment - a bomb disposal unit of the Royal Engineers based at Carver Barracks, Wimbish, Essex.

They were killed after their Land Rover was ambushed in the border town of Safwan, Southern Iraq.

Their role was to clear mines laid by the retreating Iraqi army. They were on their way to join colleagues sweeping for booby traps when they were attacked.

Staff Sgt Cullingworth and his wife Allison had been married for almost 10 years. They have two sons - James, nine, and three-year-old Jack.

The popular soldier had been on tours of duty in other trouble spots, including the Balkans and Afghanistan. Sapper Luke had not seen action before, although he had served in Kenya and Cyprus.

Last night his long-term girlfriend Katie was being comforted by family and friends.

Sister Nina recalled last night how their mum, Christine, who died of cancer seven months ago, always called him her "little soldier".

Luke's step-father Michael Pawsey said: "The Army brought his wonderful character to the fore.

"Before signing up a couple of years ago, he was a car mechanic and glorified panel beater.

"He loved everything about his new job - the camaraderie and sense of achievement. The feeling that he was serving his country.

"Going to the Gulf, he was doing what he wanted to do. We are numb at the news. But so, so proud of him."

 
 

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