An ex-Royal Marine acquitted of the murder of a wounded Taliban fighter has told the BBC he tried to kill himself after hitting “rock bottom”.
Sam Deen, known until now as Marine E, admitted that in Afghanistan in 2011 he offered to shoot the insurgent, who was then killed by Sgt Alexander Blackman – also known as Marine A.
“I didn’t feel like I did anything wrong,” Mr Deen said.
He believes not killing him would have risked British casualties.
“He was going to die anyway. He was probably already dead,” he told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.
Mr Deen is speaking out for the first time, after a military court lifted an anonymity order.
The insurgent who was killed had been seriously injured in an attack by an Apache helicopter. He was shot by Blackman in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Mr Deen admitted he had told comrades: “Let’s just put one in his head, let’s just do it.”
He added: “I said, ‘I’ll shoot him’.”
The ex-Marine said that at the time the group had felt “exposed”, having stormed a Taliban compound.
“We were like, ‘What are we doing here? Let’s just get out of here’,” he said.
“I was trying to influence it in a way to try and hurry up and get things done – and fit in as well.”
Once the Taliban fighter had been shot, he said, “It was like, ‘Right that’s done, let’s just go’.
“It had to be that way. He was going to die anyway.”
Mr Deen said he was in Gibraltar – in October 2012 – when he first heard he was to be charged by British police.
“I was like… ‘How can you charge me with full-on murder when I didn’t kill anyone?’
“The whole situation was used as a scapegoat for the military. They had to be seen to be doing something.
“If they were going to do that, they should bring up thousands of cases in every single war.”
Four months later Mr Deen was acquitted of the murder charge. He left the Royal Marines in 2015.
It was then, he said, that his mental health suffered.
“I left the blanket of the military, the cover of protection, and then you’re just a civilian now.
“I just totally went off the rails… hit rock bottom in my mind, in my brain.”
Last year, he attempted to end his life.
“I was having panic attacks. I just thought, ‘I don’t want to live like this anymore’. I tried to take an overdose.
“You go from being a Royal Marine in control, knowing what he’s doing in life, to then leaving and losing control.”
Blackman, Mr Deen’s former comrade, was initially convicted of the insurgent’s murder.
This was reduced to manslaughter on appeal and he was released from prison in April 2017, having served more than three years.
He told the Victoria Derbyshire programme that after a “difficult” time he was now moving on from the incident, ensuring it did not “define who I am”.
“I look back and there’s a lot to be proud of [from my time in the Royal Marines], I did a lot of things,” he said.
Blackman has now started a new role with forces charity ExFor+, supporting veterans returning to civilian life.
“The Royal Marines family as a whole have been very welcoming, very supportive when I’ve needed it. So for me it’s not been too bad at all,” he explained.
When Blackman was released from prison in 2017, judges were told he had a recognised mental illness at the time of the killing, in September 2011.
He said this had been “situation and location-specific”, and he was no longer suffering the same effects.
But he said more needed to be done to help those who were struggling and “perhaps slip throughout the cracks”.
“I’ve had colleagues I’ve worked with who, unfortunately, have taken their lives recently since they’ve left service, because they were struggling with mental health issues and they’ve kept it bottled up,” he said.
One of those being helped by ExFor+ is Mr Deen, who has challenged himself to climb the “seven summits” – the highest mountains across the seven continents of the world.
“Week by week, day by day, I’m changing,” he said.
“When I started climbing it gave me the boost I needed, like I’m achieving something.”
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