Detectives investigating unfounded claims that British troops murdered Iraqi civilians were paid £1,000 a day

  • Al Sweady Inquiry was launched to investigate sickening allegations
  • Former murder officers flew business class and stayed in 5-star hotels
  • Details have emerged suggesting the investigation has cost £27million

By Ian Drury and Stephen Wright

Investigators were paid as much as £1,000 a day to probe unfounded allegations that British troops murdered Iraqi prisoners in cold blood, the Mail can reveal.

Former murder squad detectives enjoyed business class flights and stayed in five-star hotels in the  Middle East after being hired by the Al Sweady Inquiry.

Extraordinary details of how the biggest probe into military abuse racked up a bill now put at £27million emerged after human rights lawyers dramatically dropped sickening slurs that captives were executed in UK custody.

Rug pulled: Relatives of the captives supposedly killed by British soldiers actually died in a battle near Basra, their relatives admitted

Rug pulled: Relatives of the captives supposedly killed by British soldiers actually died in a battle near Basra, their relatives admitted

Relatives admitted on Thursday – the last day of evidence to the inquiry – that the insurgents were killed during a fierce firefight, called the Battle of Danny Boy, near Basra in May 2004.

It effectively pulled the rug from under the hearings, set up to investigate claims that soldiers killed, mutilated and tortured Iraqi prisoners. Government insiders said the twist meant ministers would be ‘reticent’ to set up public inquiries into abuse claims in the future.


Critics said the last-gasp U-turn severely undermined other human rights cases brought by the families’ legal team Public Interest Lawyers, a firm founded by socialist lawyer Phil Shiner.

His legal battle with the Ministry of Defence was directly responsible for then Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth setting up the inquiry in 2009.

It is examining allegations that UK troops unlawfully killed more than 20 prisoners and mistreated nine others after a battle near the Danny Boy base. The inquiry is named after Hameed Al Sweady, 19, one of those who died.

Probe: Allegations that soldiers had executed Iraqi captives were unfounded. The above photograph, shown during the inquiry, shows a soldier guardian prisoners

Probe: Allegations that soldiers had executed Iraqi captives were unfounded. The above photograph, shown during the inquiry, shows a soldier guardian prisoners

Five other men also claimed they were mistreated. The claims have been strenuously denied by the Ministry of Defence which says the victims were insurgents killed in battle.

Soldiers from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were heavily outnumbered in the ambush but fought back heroically.

The Mail can today reveal that to investigate Mr Shiner’s clients’ claims, a team of 12 former Scotland Yard murder squad officers, commanded by a retired chief superintendent, was recruited.

Their role was research and evidence gathering, including taking statements from Iraqi witnesses and British soldiers.

The senior policeman is understood to have been paid more than £1,000 a day plus expenses. Junior investigators on the inquiry team were paid  £400 a day.

Along with three lawyers from Public Interest Lawyers, the investigators made four visits to Beirut to interview witnesses.

Each trip lasted two to three weeks, officials said. They flew business class and the group stayed at the five-star Gefinor Rotana Hotel, which is described on its website as being of ‘spellbinding luxury’.

Suites were hired to interview Iraqi witnesses, who stayed at a more modest hotel in the city but were permitted to dine at the Gefinor Rotana. They were also given a ‘generous’ daily living allowance.

Investigation: The hearing sat for a total of 167 days

Investigation: The hearing sat for a total of 167 days

The inquiry team later made three business class trips to Istanbul, where they stayed in the five-star Grand Hyatt Hotel, as they interviewed Iraqi witnesses.

The Iraqis again stayed in a less expensive hotel but were allowed to dine in the inquiry team’s hotel and enjoy a daily living allowance.

Investigative and ‘other expert services’ accounted for £7million. Running costs including IT and accommodation cost £5.9million, counsel and legal services a further £4.9million, core participant and witness costs £2.5million and general staffing £1.8million.

This led to the total bill for the inquiry topping £22million at the end of February.

But sources have told the Mail that the actual total is closer to £27million – six times the bill of the Macpherson Inquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s murder.

The vast sums spent on the inquiry were criticised. Iraq veteran Colonel Tim Collins said: ‘It is a money-making scam. The only losers are justice and the taxpayer.’

A spokesman for the inquiry, headed by retired High Court judge Sir Thayne Forbes, said was ‘focused on obtaining value for money’ and its expenditure was in line with Government guidance.

So far, the hearing has sat for 167 days and heard evidence from 281 witnesses. Public Interest Lawyers say there are still ‘numerous’ claims of abuse for the inquiry to consider.

Leftie lawyer loves suing his country


Made millions: Phil Shiner set up Public Interest Lawyers in 1999 and has fought many battles for celebrated causes of the Left

Made millions: Phil Shiner set up Public Interest Lawyers in 1999 and has fought many battles for celebrated causes of the Left

The Left-wing lawyer Phil Shiner says he’s equipped with an ‘acute sense’ that allows him to weed out suspect legal claims.

The Birmingham-based solicitor, who revels in taking on Legal Aid clients suing British institutions, even once boasted that he has not ‘accepted a single case that turned out to be a try-on’.

After the spectacular collapse of his firm’s attempt to prove   British troops tortured and executed Iraqis in cold blood, he will no doubt still argue that the claim was entirely legitimate.

To understand what motivates Mr Shiner and his company, consider his view on Britain as a whole.

‘At the heart of the British nation is still that horrible, exploitative, violent, colonial past. We’ve never got rid of it,’ he has said, and the former grammar school boy states on his firm’s website that he is a ‘committed socialist’.

Philip Joseph Shiner was born in a semi-detached home in Coventry on Christmas Day 1956. He was the second of four children of Peter Shiner, a draughtsman, and his wife, Patricia, a teacher.

The family was middle class and Conservative-voting, and Philip was raised a Roman Catholic. He was known as a hard-working pupil at school and went on to study law at Birmingham University where he became increasingly active in Left-wing politics.

He started work for a firm dealing with insurance claims but found it dull. He joined a practice focusing on environmental law.

For a time, he worked for the Birkenhead Labour MP Frank Field. But in 1999, shortly before the Human Rights Act came into force, he set up PIL in Birmingham. His timing was superb.

He has fought many battles for the Left’s celebrated causes, including acting for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

He forged strong links with Matrix Chambers, the legal home of Cherie Booth QC, the wife of Tony Blair. In 2004, he was awarded Human Rights Lawyer of the Year by Liberty.

While Mr Shiner, 57, insists he lives a relatively frugal lifestyle, his company has made millions from taking on British institutions, particularly the Army.

It is currently acting for more than 100 clients who claim their relatives were unlawfully detained, ill-treated, or killed by UK forces in Iraq.

PIL has secured more than £3million in payouts. Most notably, he represented the family of Baha Mousa, the hotel receptionist who died in 2003 in custody in Iraq. The subsequent inquiry cost the UK £13million.

In 2007 he was accused of endangering the lives of British troops after releasing graphic photographs of the badly beaten body of Mr Mousa.

Because of his work, Mr Shiner has received death threats. He blamed the Ministry of Defence for whipping up a hate campaign against him. The MoD denied doing any such thing.

Five years ago, he even issued a statement saying ‘if anything happens to me, my family or my staff, it [the MoD] will be held responsible’.

Mr Shiner, who has been married twice and has five children, claims Catholicism remains an essential part of his life and most years he attends a religious retreat on Iona.

His competitive nature is evident in his pastimes; he cycles and runs. He also says he is a fan of absurdist humour. Presumably he’s not laughing today.

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

Make the damn lawyers pay every penny of the bill.

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Spot the difference between a lawyer and a politician. One fleeces the public and the other fleeces the public. (In other words, there is no difference).

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It's Lawyers like Shiner and this case which will ultimately see amendments to the Legal Aid system but will such people accept their responsibility/blame for this? - No way it will be the Government and everybody elses fault.

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£1000 a day, I bet there found lots of soldiers, only for money.

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Ironic really, civilian police investigators get £1000 a day and the troops they are investigating are probably getting £1000 a month.if they are lucky.

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It is therefore little wonder that part of the judiciary are protesting against the removal of public funded money for some trials. A license to print money at the taxpayers expense. It is of course slightly disingenuous DM when journalists get paid similar on some overseas assignments - albeit not funded by the taxpayer!!

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Always amazes me how these self-righteous crusading socialist always seem to do very well out of their campaigning. Definition of a Socialist - Someone who spends other peoples money to make themselves feel good.

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Bring back Ostracism, The ancient Greek practice whereby any prominent citizen who threatened the stability of the state could be banished without bringing any charge against him. Tragically, Shiner would be pretty low on my list.

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There is no such thing as a public interest lawyer,there only interest is in lining their own pockets.

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Shut off the legal aid money tap and we won't have a problem with traitors like Shiner. No other country in the world finances attacks on it's military.

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