Yorkshire GP is struck off over death of Iraqi prisoner

AN ex-Army doctor, now a family GP in North Yorkshire, was struck off the register today after being found guilty of misconduct by medical watchdogs over the death of Iraqi detainee Baha Mousa.

Dr Derek Keilloh, 38, looked down and blinked slowly as the decision was delivered at the conclusion of a marathon 47-day hearing by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service sitting in Manchester.

He supervised a failed resuscitation attempt to save the life of Mr Mousa, who had been hooded, handcuffed and severely beaten by soldiers after his arrest as a suspected insurgent in war-torn Basra in September 2003.

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Dr Keilloh, then a captain and regimental medical officer of the 1st Battalion, Queen’s Lancashire Regiment (1QLR), claimed later that he saw only dried blood around the nose of Mr Mousa, 26, while giving mouth-to-mouth and CPR.

His body swollen and bruised, Mr Mousa, a father of two, had suffered 93 separate injuries, including fractured ribs and a broken nose.

An innocent hotel receptionist, he was arrested in an Army crackdown by soldiers who believed, wrongly, that he was an insurgent involved in the murder of four of their colleagues the month before.

The MPTS found Dr Keilloh guilty of misconduct following Mr Mousa’s death and announced “with regret” today that the only “appropriate sanction” was banning him from working as a doctor.

The panel heard that at the time of Mr Mousa’s death, Dr Keilloh was aged 28, eight weeks into the job, an inexperienced and inadequately-trained young medic, given little supervision or support by the QLR, which was fighting a growing insurgency in the chaotic and lawless sprawling southern city in Iraq.

The MPTS recognised Dr Keilloh, now a GP at Mayford House Surgery in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, never harmed Mr Mousa and did “everything possible” to save his life, in a setting that was “highly charged, chaotic, tense and stressful”.

But they ruled he must have seen the injuries and, especially as a doctor, had a duty to act.

They questioned his honesty and “probity” after he lied to Army investigators about the injuries and, in sticking to his story, giving evidence in subsequent court martials and a public inquiry.

The MPTS also said Dr Keilloh, knowing of Mr Mousa’s injuries and sudden death, did not do enough to protect his patients, the other detainees, from further mistreatment - breaking a “fundamental tenet” of the medical profession.

He told soldiers not to beat other detainees, but the panel ruled he should have blown the whistle to senior officers about what went on.

The MPTS decision said it was the “repeated dishonesty” in claiming not to have seen injuries to Mr Mousa that was wholly unacceptable.

Dr Brian Alderman said: “In all the circumstances, the panel determined that erasure is the only appropriate sanction in this case.

“It is considered that this action is the only way proper standards of conduct and behaviour may be upheld and trust in the profession as a whole may be restored.

“The panel has identified serious breaches of good medical practice and, given the gravity and nature of the extent and context of your dishonesty, it considers that your misconduct is fundamentally incompatible with continued registration.”

An online petition and support from patients and fellow doctors now working with Dr Keilloh failed to save his job, despite him being described in glowing terms.

Dr Keilloh took up his post in Basra in July 2003, with the city falling apart as over-stretched British soldiers tried to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s police state.

Tempers boiled over as the city sweltered during the stiflingly hot summer after Captain David “Dai” Jones was blown up by a roadside bomb while in a military ambulance and three members of the Royal Military Police (RMP) were killed when gunmen opened fire on their civilian Jeep.

The deaths led to a hardening of attitudes by troops and a crackdown on insurgents.

Operation Salerno, launched in the early hours of September 14 2003, saw 1QLR soldiers searching hotels in Basra for Saddam loyalists.

A £13 million public inquiry, led by Sir William Gage, concluded that Mr Mousa’s death was caused by a combination of his weakened physical state - due to factors including the heat, exhaustion, his previous injuries and the hooding and stress positions he was subjected to by British troops - and a final struggle with his guards.

The final report strongly criticised the “corporate failure” by the Ministry of Defence and the “lack of moral courage to report abuse” within Preston-based QLR.

It named 19 soldiers who assaulted Mr Mousa and other detainees, and found that many others, including several officers, must have known what was happening.

Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the “truly shocking and appalling” abuse and General Sir Mike Jackson, a former head of the Army, said the incident remained a “stain on the character of the British Army”.

Seven 1QLR soldiers, including the battalion’s former commanding officer, Colonel Jorge Mendonca, faced allegations relating to the mistreatment of Mr Mousa and the other Iraqi detainees at a high-profile, six-month court martial in 2006/07.

But the £20 million trial ended with them all cleared, apart from Corporal Donald Payne who became the first member of the British armed forces convicted of a war crime when he pleaded guilty to inhumanely treating civilians.

Cpl Payne was dismissed from the Army and sentenced to one year in a civilian jail.

Col Mendonca retired from the Army soon after the court martial, saying he felt he had been “hung out to dry”, but the inquiry heard claims that he was “gung-ho” and “trigger happy” when dealing with suspected insurgents.

The Ministry of Defence agreed to pay £2.83 million in compensation to the families of Mr Mousa and nine other Iraqi men abused by British troops.