Marine A: who is Alexander Blackman, what is the true story behind Channel 4 documentary, and when’s it on TV?

Channel 4’s documentary looks at the controversial case of Marine A - and his conviction

Channel 4 ‘s documentary War and Justice: The Case of Marine A will air tonight.

It is a special looking into Alexander Blackman and touches upon the events of a killing in Helmand Province in 2011.

Marine A was the first British soldier to be convicted of murder on a foreign battlefield since World War II.

But what is the Channel 4 documentary about and what is the true story behind it?

Here’s what you need to know:

Who is Alexander Blackman and what is the story behind the documentary? 

Alexander Blackman - also known as Al - was known as Marine A before an anonymity order was lifted following his conviction.

On 15 September 2011, whilst serving with the Royal Marines, Blackman shot an unarmed Taliban insurgent in the chest.

Blackman and his team found the insurgent in the Helmand Province during Operation Herrick 14, which was part of the British effort in the Afghanistan War.

When sent to examine an area targeted by an Apache helicopter, the Marines came across a wounded Afghan fighter.

Video evidence played at the trial shows members of the patrol dragging the man across the field and kicking him.

A supporter of British Sergeant Alexander Blackman holds up a banner outside the Royal Courts of Justice. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

In the footage, Blackman could be seen ordering Marine B and C to stop administering first aid.

Blackman then shot the insurgent in the chest saying the words: “Shuffle off this mortal coil, you c**t. It’s nothing you wouldn’t do to us."

The incident was filmed on a marine’s helmet-mounted camera, and in 2012, Blackman and four other marines (called Marines B-E) were charged with murder after British civilian police had discovered suspicious video footage on a serviceman’s laptop.

What was the verdict of the trial? 

On 5 February 2013, Marines D and E had the charges against them dropped, but Marines A-C entered a not-guilty plea.

In November 2013, the Board of the Court Martial found Marine A guilty of murder, but acquitted Marines B and C.

The findings said: "Having removed his AK47, magazines and a grenade, [Marine A] caused him to be moved to a place where [Marine A] wanted to be out of sight of your operational Headquarters at Shazad so that, to quote what [Marine A] said: ‘PGSS can’t see what we’re doing to him,

"[Marine A] intended to kill him and that shot certainly hastened his death. He then told his patrol they were not to say anything about what had just happened and [he] acknowledged what [he] had done by saying that [he] had just broken the Geneva Convention. The tone and calmness of [his] voice as [he] commented after [he] had shot him were a matter of fact and in that respect they were chilling."

Blackman was sentenced to life in prison, but in May 2014, the Court Martial Appeal Court reduced his minimum term to 10 years, due to Blackman having an outstanding service record” and "the effects on him from the nature of the conflict in Afghanistan" the most serious of which being "stress".

Where is Blackman now? 

Blackman was released from prison on 28 April 2017, after the Court Martial Appeal Court reduced Blackman’s conviction to manslaughter in March 2017 on the grounds of diminished responsibility, as at the hearing Blackman had a "recognised mental illness" at the time of the shooting, BBC News reported.

His prison term was reduced and he was given credit for the time he served already.

What is the documentary about? 

On Sunday 31 July, at 9 pm Channel 4’s Documentary War and Justice: The Case of Marine A shows Blackman telling his version of the events, along with those involved in his case and the soldiers on duty with him.

The documentary will reveal recently recovered combat footage and looks into how Blackman’s conviction was changed to manslaughter.

War and Justice: The Case of Marine A airs on Channel 4 at 9 pm on Sunday 31 July 2022.