Paras 'beat boy to death' By TOM NEWTON DUNN Defence Editor in Colchester SEVEN Paras walked away laughing and clapping after beating an Iraqi teenager to death, a court martial heard yesterday. The elite troops were said to have used their rifle butts, feet, fists and even their helmets to batter Nadhem Abdullah, 18. They also punched and kicked five other villagers â one of them pregnant â after mistaking a group of innocent Iraqis for criminals, the hearing was told. And they allegedly shot a barking dog dead before leaving two of their victims, including the doomed lad, unconscious on the ground. Nadhem died on his way to hospital from head injuries caused by a rifle butt crashing on to the back of his skull. The Paras â a section known as Delta 21 Charlie â are the first soldiers to go on trial for murder in Iraq since the war on Saddam Hussein was launched in March 2003. The historic court martial in Colchester, Essex, is the first of three war crimes trials facing British troops in the next six months. A total of just 21 soldiers â out of 100,000 who served in Iraq â face charges of murder, abuse or neglect over the deaths of civilians during the anarchy after the war. Some are highly decorated. There has been public uproar this year about troops from Iraq being dragged through courts on their return home for crimes allegedly committed while trying to do their jobs. Prosecuting QC Martin Heslop told yesterdayâs court martial: âThis is not a case of soldiers responding under attack or being required to defend themselves in an operational engagement. âIt was nothing more than gratuitous violence meted out on a number of innocent and unarmed Iraqi civilians. These assaults were unjustified and wholly unprovoked.â Mr Heslop said the attack took place on May 11 2003, three weeks after the war ended. The accused soldiers fought in the conflict with the Third Battalion, the Parachute Regiment. Their mission after the war was to bring stability to the tinderbox Maysan Province north of Basra. On the day of the alleged attack, they were pursuing a white car that sped through an Army checkpoint and into the village of Al Ferkah. The QC said the Paras, in a Land Rover and a Pinzgauer jeep, mistook a pick-up being used as a bus by locals for the white car. After blocking in the pickup, they dragged out the driver and Nadhem, who was in the front passenger seat, and forced them to lie by the side of the road. Mr Heslop said both were repeatedly hit and kicked until they passed out. Two brothers who were passengers were also battered. The QC added: âTwo women who tried to intervene were assaulted, one being pregnant and the other having given birth two weeks before.â DNA tests revealed blood on one soldierâs rifle butt was Nadhemâs. And boot prints on the victimsâ clothing matched footwear worn by some of the Paras. But a post mortem was never carried out because the body was swiftly buried. All seven soldiers deny murder and violent disorder. Four are still serving â Corporal Scott Evans, 32; Private Billy Nerney, 24; Private Samuel May, 25, and Private Morne Vosloo, 26. The others â ex-Privates Daniel Harding, 25; Roberto Di-Gregorio, 24, and Scott Jackson, 26 â have returned to civilian life. The case could last three months at a Â£10million cost to taxpayers. It is being heard by a panel of seven senior soldiers presided over by Britainâs most senior military lawman, Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett. The hearing was adjourned until next week.