TA soldier who shot suspected Taliban bomber in murder investigation
Fusilier Duane Knott could become the first British soldier serving in Afghanistan to be charged with murder. He gives his first interview to The Sunday Telegraph.
Fusilier Duane Knott had spent years working in a factory and cleaning windows in Caerphilly, south Wales, while undergoing training at weekends so that he could fight in the war By Ben Leach, and Sean Rayment,
When Fusilier Duane Knott volunteered to serve with the Territorial Army in Afghanistan at the age of 24, it was the fulfilment of a boyhood dream.
He had spent years working in a factory and cleaning windows in Caerphilly, south Wales, while undergoing training at weekends so that he could fight in the war.
But 15 months after his return from Afghanistan he faces a possible murder charge over the shooting of a suspected Taliban bomber.
Lying back on his sofa at the small two-bedroom flat he rents in the village of Cwmfelinfach, where his military photographs take pride of place on the mantelpiece, the 26-year-old reflects on the traumatic past two years.
Its been really difficult, he says. Ive found it hard to cope. When I feel down, I feel really down. Really rock bottom.
But what hurts the most is that its brought a really bad name to my company. And not being able to go back out that really has destroyed me. I was putting my body on the line. I got shot at. I just feel really let down by it all.
Fusilier Knott has spent most of his life in Caerphilly. He was born there and went to Pontllanfraith secondary school, where he got six GCSEs before doing a national diploma in Music and Art at a local college.
But his real ambition was to be a soldier. After leaving college he joined the regular army in 2005 but dropped out after four-and-a-half months of basic training a decision he describes as the biggest mistake of my life.
He waited a year before joining the TA and then spent years working in a factory and as a window cleaner before passing his initial training.
He spent five months training in Canada before being posted to Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh attached to 1st battalion The Mercian Regiment (Cheshires) battlegroup in April at the start of one of the most violent periods of the Afghan war.
Two months later one of his closest friends, Fusilier Jonathan Monk, a fellow member of the TA who had volunteered to serve in Afghanistan at the same time, was killed in an IED blast while on patrol.
Then the following month came the moment that changed his life.
Fusilier Knott had been ordered to undertake sentry duties inside the fortified compound at Patrol Base Rahim in the Nahr-e-Seraj area of central Helmand.
The soldier says he had been told to watch an Afghan digging in a field 400 metres from the base, and warned he might be about to plant an IED.
He was also told that a patrol was about to leave the base and would pass through the area in which the Afghan was digging a hole.
Fusilier Knott claims he then saw the Afghan disappear into bushes on the edge of a field before returning holding a cloth bag which he believed contained an IED.
I remember it now. Plain as day. He just stood over the hole so I thought 'time to get on to Comms through to the ops (operational) room for permission to engage (open fire), because I knew exactly what he was doing.
I couldnt get through. Turns out I was pressing the wrong button on the dial. I had only just come back from patrol so I didnt exactly know what was going on in that sangar (fortified position). Usually Id be pressing the '1 but this time it was the '0.
I thought: press '1 press '1 but couldnt get through. So I then I took it on my own back to engage. Thats why Im in this position now. Because I didnt have the power to command myself to engage.
I shot him twice in his back. He was sat down. He didnt move. So I shot him a further twice. He rolled over and kept on going for the bag so I shot him a further twice and that was it. Six in all. Two and then another two and another two.
The wounded Afghan was evacuated to a Forward Operating Base but died later from his wounds.
British investigators found no evidence that the man was attempting to plant a bomb but Fusilier Knott believes that they failed to recover the bag at the centre of the incident
After reporting details of the shooting to his headquarters, he alleges he was immediately accused of lying by his Company Sergeant Major, who told him that he had just shot an innocent guy.
I went down [the sangar] and went across and spoke to the OC (Officer Commanding) and Sergeant Major. I told him that it was me that engaged. I couldnt get through to Comms the Ops room. It all pretty much went downhill from there.
The Sgt Major didnt believe me. He was like 'Nah, youve just shot someone walking through a field. 'Youve just opened up on some innocent person. I was like 'No, thats not the case. I tried to get my story across but nothing. They took my weapon off me.
Sgt Majors immediate reaction was 'no youve engaged on an innocent guy. 'Youre a liar.
I dont think it was anything personal he [the Sgt Major] just honestly didnt believe me. I just didnt know how to speak to him. I couldnt get my message across.
There was a split down the middle. You either believed me or you didnt. Some did [believe me] some didnt. The other Sgt Major did.
Fusilier Knott says that his rifle was taken away, something that made him feel like a kid, and he was confined to base for several weeks before being sent back to Camp Bastion where he completed the rest of his seven-month tour.
There he was interviewed under caution by the Royal Military Police who said that he may face a murder charge in the future.
You think you do something, make them proud but then when youve got your own company thinking youre a liar and dont believe you not all of them but a lot of them. It doesnt make you feel good.
I know for a fact what I did was right. How could you live with yourself for killing an innocent person? I couldnt.
I dont feel bad about it. I dont have regrets. No remorse whatsoever. I dont feel sad about it. Nightmares? Not even nearly.
Id expect anybody to do the same especially a soldier.
Fusilier Knott returned from Afghanistan in October to a flat near the home of his parents, who have supported him through his ordeal. He says he found it difficult to cope at first, despite falling in love on his return.
I was totally head over heels. She helped me so much took my mind off things.
But when I got a letter a couple of months later saying there may be action taken my head went and it affected the relationship and we broke up. She just had had enough.
It really depressed me. Having someone say theres a possibility that you might be getting done for murder its going to ruin your life. She just couldnt deal with it. I just drank to keep it all out.
Thats devastating, dont get me wrong. But what hurts most is Im a bad name in my company. Thats the main thing.
But despite the trauma of the past 20 months Fusilier Knott says he still wants to return to Afghanistan and hopes to become a full-time soldier
I need to be a full-time soldier. Even part-time soldier would be great but I cant do anything and thats whats breaking me.
I just need the military to accept the truth. I want to get on with my career in the army. Get on with my life.
Im very confident that Ill be cleared. I think they cant do that [charge me with murder]. Its impossible. It would be like doing a soldier over stabbing a soldier in the back.
I go down to the TA on Tuesday nights. I go down there and tell the new recruits good luck. Even though this has happened I tell them cherish the moment because youll never find anything like it in your life.
TA soldier who shot suspected Taliban bomber in murder investigation - Telegraph
Is it me, or does something not sound quite right about the whole thing? Can't put my finger on it.