Former detectives lead Iraq 'murder' inquiry

A TEAM team of retired British detectives is carrying out a unique "murder investigation" for a public inquiry examining allegations that UK soldiers killed and tortured civilians in Iraq.

The Al-Sweady Inquiry is looking into claims that 20 or more Iraqis were murdered and others suffered horrific abuse after the "Battle of Danny Boy" in southern Iraq in 2004.

The inquiry has appointed a squad of British former police officers, headed by former top Scotland Yard murder detective Stephen Condon, to carry out the first detailed investigation into the allegations.

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They are effectively beginning with a blank sheet after an earlier Royal Military Police inquiry was judged to be inadequate. It is not even clear how many Iraqis are alleged to have been killed.

This is believed to be a first for a public inquiry, which would normally take a fresh look at events that had already been closely examined.

An inquiry spokesman said: "We're starting with a set of allegations which have not been properly investigated. So therefore the inquiry itself has had to try to do that investigation.

"The first thing we've had to do is to interview the Iraqis to actually formalise what the allegations are. It's being run effectively as a murder inquiry. But because of the nature of it as a public inquiry, we don't have any formal powers.

"Our team are retired police officers and they don't have any powers, so it has to be run slightly differently - we can't force people to speak to us."

Attorney General Dominic Grieve has agreed to grant witnesses to the inquiry immunity from prosecution based on their own evidence.