Danny Nightingale's reputation was not the only one tarnished by trial

The army, MoD and SAS have all been bruised during the tense and sometimes bitter trial of the former sniper

On a Friday afternoon in September 2011 police officers broke into a suburban house on a quiet road in the west of England.

They were working on a tipoff that weapons and ammunition had been stashed at the address but were still shocked at what they found.

In a wardrobe of the back bedroom they discovered a 9mm Glock pistol and in a plastic container under the bed there were more than 300 rounds of ammunition.

The officers discovered a similar Glock and more ammunition in the front bedroom. Down in the garage there was a “bombmaker’s kit”, including a timer. A live grenade was nestling in a pot on a shelf. In a lean-to officers found a gun barrel and silencer, while there was even a live round in a pen holder in the kitchen and flares in the conservatory.

The house (its exact location cannot be given for security reasons) must have seemed like a terrorists’ lair. In fact it was the home to two men regarded as among the UK army’s best and bravest: SAS operatives Sergeant Danny Nightingale and his close friend and comrade, who can be identified only as “N”.

The pair, who were serving in Afghanistan at the time, were hauled in front of a senior officer and ordered to pack their bags and go home to explain to West Mercia detectives what they were up to.

On the flight back they knew they were in deep trouble – they faced five years in jail for illegal possession of weapons and a dishonourable discharge from the army.

Within days they were giving similar stories back in Hereford, where the SAS has its regimental headquarters. They both told police detectives they had imported the Glocks from Iraq as war trophies. Explaining the ammunition, they said they were range instructors and had carelessly stockpiled leftover munitions rather than taking them back to camp.

Nightingale’s confession seemed unequivocal. He said he had been gifted the pistol in 2007 by Iraqis he had helped train. “I apologise profusely,” he said. On the ammunition he said: “I haven’t got any excuse.”

West Mercia police was satisfied the pair had not hoarded the items with criminal intentions and handed the case over to the military authorities.

At his court martial last year N accepted responsibility for most of the items found at the house, except for the pistol and ammunition in the back bedroom, where Nightingale slept. He was sentenced to two years’ military detention.

But when he appeared for court martial, Nightingale explained he could not actually remember being given the pistol in Iraq (pdf).

It emerged that he had suffered severe brain damage after falling into a coma while taking part in a fundraising endurance run in the Amazon in 2009. Psychiatrists had told him he “confabulated” – unconsciously imagined stories to fill in gaps in his memory.

But he admitted the offences after the court suggested to …read more  

Danny Nightingale guilty of illegally possessing pistol and ammunition

SAS sniper who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was convicted of offences at court martial in Wiltshire

The former SAS sniper Danny Nightingale has been found guilty of illegally possessing a pistol and ammunition.

Nightingale, 38, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was convicted of the offences at a court martial in Wiltshire.

The verdict is a relief for army prosecutors, who came under attack for continuing to pursue Nightingale after an earlier conviction for the same offences was overturned following a high-profile campaign.

It is a bitter blow for the soldier and father-of-two, who faces having to sell his family home to help pay for legal costs.

The court martial at Bulford camp heard that a Glock 9mm pistol and more than 300 rounds of ammunition were found in Nightingale’s bedroom in a house shared with a friend and SAS colleague, who can only be identified as Soldier N.

Nightingale was hauled back to the UK from Afghanistan, where he was serving, and told civilian police the pistol had been a present from Iraqis he had worked with in 2007.

He said he had carelessly stockpiled the ammunition while he worked as a range instructor for the SAS.

At his first court martial last year Nightingale said he could not actually remember being given the pistol, explaining that he had suffered memory loss following a serious illness during a jungle challenge.

But when it was suggested by the court that he could face five years in prison if he fought the charges he pleaded guilty – and was then shocked when he was given 18 months in military detention rather than the suspended sentence he was expecting.

His wife, Sally, and legal team launched a campaign to free him. The sentence was reduced and eventually quashed.

But the military prosecutors decided to order a fresh court martial even though Nightingale is being medically discharged early next year because of his mental problems.

During the latest hearing Nightingale claimed the pistol and ammunition must have belonged to Soldier N. His explanation about how he came by the gun and ammunition was put down to “confabulation” – an unconscious trick of the mind in which gaps are filled in with false memories.

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Germ warfare facility Porton Down opens doors to media: From the archive, 10 July 1962

Research into effect of chemical attack could bring better understanding of the spread and control of major illnesses, its scientists claim

Is germ warfare possible? If it is, what defences can be made? The Microbiological Research Establishment at Porton Down, Wiltshire, which was set up during the last war to answer these questions, opened its doors to the press for the first time yesterday.

The story is one of “swords into ploughshares,” for any infection spread by an enemy would be one of the most serious known, and would have to be spread in ways very similar to those of nature. The defensive research of the establishment is important in understanding the spread and control of major illnesses.

The director, Dr D. W. Henderson, pointed out that there was no research on the offensive use of germ warfare and that 90 per cent of the work was published. Workers at the establishment were particularly interested in infections which were difficult to cure.

Anthrax, a fatal disease in cattle and man, had not been seriously studied since the time of Pasteur; they had now produced a successful vaccine. The treatment of Brucella, a disease which produces abortion in cattle and general debility in man, involved many of their successes. They now make a vaccine by a continuous culture which is used by the Ministry of Agriculture. The technique is also used for making antibiotics and alcohol.

The disease concentrates in one part of the body – the reproductive system of cattle, because a growth factor, erythritol, is concentrated there. Promising attempts have been made to use a drug that resembles erythritol sufficiently to deceive the infection. This work may lead to successes in other diseases, like pneumonia, which concentrate their attack.

Germs of staphylococcal infections, that are difficult to cure in hospitals, also make at least six infection factors. These have been separated. One, staphylokinase, prevents blood from clotting, and could be valuable in the treatment of thrombosis.

Some vaccines are effective only when alive and therefore potentially dangerous. The live virus produces chemicals in its reaction with whatever it is infecting. Some of these have been isolated and it may be possible to add them to a dead vaccine to make it effective but safe.

Another study is of the effect of successive infection with different diseases. Tuberculosis, if not fatal, leaves a high resistance to Brucella. An infection with influenza causes the death by anthrax of a subject that has previously been exposed to anthrax. Solving this problem could also solve that of the deaths that occur from other illnesses during an influenza epidemic.

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UK forces in Helmand 'made matters worse', says report

Study says ‘ignorant’ troops alienated local people and the Taliban are likely to try to retake the Afghanistan province

Under intense pressure from British and US troops, the Taliban have been demoralised and put on the back foot in the Afghan province of Helmand; yet they have proved remarkably resilient, and will try to “retake” the province once foreign forces withdraw, at the end of next year, according to a study published in the influential International Affairs journal .

The study, based on 53 interviews with Taliban commanders and fighters in Helmand, and published on Wednesday, contains damning criticism of the way British commanders sent thousands of their soldiers there in 2006. “Far from helping to secure Helmand, the arrival of the British triggered a violent intensification of the insurgency,” it says.

A high level of casualties has produced widespread support among field commanders for ceasefire talks, but the resilience of the insurgency and the growing influence of Taliban military commissions in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar means they are “unlikely to give ground easily in negotiations”, says Theo Farrell, one of the study’s authors.

Farrell, head of the war studies department at King’s College London, and Antonio Giustozzi, visiting professor at the department, have published the study in the Chatham House thinktank’s journal. They warn: “What we find is an insurgency that is driven both by a strong unifying strategic narrative and purpose – jihad against foreign invaders – and by local conflict dynamics: rivalry between kinship groups and competition over land, water and drugs.

“The manner of the Taliban return to Helmand shows clear intent to retake the province,” the authors say.

The Taliban crept back into Helmand after the US-led air strikes in 2001, with small vanguards secretly preparing the way for larger groups to follow.

Farrell and Giustozzi add: “By arriving with insufficient force, aligning themselves with local corrupt power-holders, relying on firepower to keep insurgents at bay and targeting the poppy crop, the British made matters worse.

“Far from securing Helmand, British forces alienated the population, mobilised local armed resistance and drew in foreign fighters seeking jihad.”

They describe British troops as “blindly ignorant of the local politics underpinning [the insurgency]”.

“Indiscriminate use of fire by British forces alienated locals who were driven from their homes or lost family members,” they write. “The pressure on what remained an undermanned force meant that the British lacked the presence and tactical patience to develop ties in most communities, and still had to rely on artillery and air power to get out of trouble.”

An added cause of local resistance was the attempt by the British to eradicate opium production. The Taliban took advantage of this by promising to protect landowners and farmers from poppy-eradication programmes, thereby winning local support, they say.

“It was in this climate of gathering jihad that young Helmandi men flocked to the Taliban … the British presence made it far easier to recruit local fighters.”

Two weeks, ago, General Nick Carter, deputy commander of the Nato-led coalition, and the most senior British …read more  

SAS sniper Danny Nightingale denies pistol in bedroom was his

Soldier says gun and ammunition found in his home must have belonged to housemate

The former SAS sniper Danny Nightingale has firmly denied that a gun and ammunition found in his bedroom belonged to him – despite originally telling police they were his and pleading guilty to the offences in a court.

Sergeant Nightingale told a new court martial that he suffered memory blanks as a result of an illness he suffered while taking part in an endurance race in the Amazon and he had “confabulated” – filled in the gaps with false versions of how he came by the weapon and ammunition.

Speaking in public under oath for the first time after almost two years of legal proceedings, Nightingale claimed the pistol and ammunition must have belonged to another member of the SAS with whom he shared the house where the items were found.

But it also emerged on Friday that in the late 90s Nightingale, 38, was fined £1,000 after ammunition and a smoke grenade were found in his room while he was serving in Northern Ireland.

Nightingale chose to stand to give his evidence before the board of officers hearing his case at Bulford military centre in Wiltshire.

He said his specialist skills in what was called only “the unit” included driving, medical work, den-making and surveillance as well as sniping. He described how he had invented a new type of dressing for chest wounds that was used by the military across the world and by ambulance services in the UK and US.

Watched by family and friends, Nightingale said he fell into a coma while taking part in the jungle event in 2009 and when he woke up was left with gaps in his memory.

In September 2011 he and his housemate, identified only as soldier N, were serving in Afghanistan when they were told their home in the UK had been raided and guns and ammunition found.

N has admitted one of the two Glock pistols found in the house and much of the ammunition were his and is serving a two-year sentence. Originally Nightingale said the other pistol belonged to him and was given to him by Iraqis he worked alongside in 2007. He said he had accumulated the ammunition – more than 300 rounds – because he worked as a range instructor and had kept some of it at home rather than return it to stores to save time.

He too was originally convicted and sentenced to detention but is back in court after his conviction was quashed.

In the witness box on Friday Nightingale said he was a “diligent” soldier who would not have stashed a pistol and ammunition.

Asked by his barrister, William Clegg QC: “Today do you believe that the gun was given to you by an Iraqi national?” Nightingale replied: “I do not.”

“Do you believe the gun was yours?” “I do not”. “Today do you believe that the ammunition was yours left over from the range?” Again Nightingale replied: “I do not.”

Nightingale said he got to know very few …read more