Freed marine Alexander Blackman praises his 'wife in a million'

Image source, PA
Image caption, Sgt Alexander Blackman had his murder conviction reduced to manslaughter

The Royal Marine jailed for shooting dead a wounded Taliban fighter has praised his "wife in a million" following his release from prison.

Sgt Alexander Blackman received a life term for murder in 2013, but his conviction was reduced to manslaughter last month.

Wife Claire led the campaign alongside author Frederick Forsyth and the Daily Mail.

The 42-year-old was known as Marine A during the original trial process.

After his release from Erlestoke Prison in Wiltshire on Friday, he told the Daily Mail: "She [Claire] has saved me. Her determination to keep on fighting for me has been nothing short of incredible."

Image source, AFP
Image caption, Claire Blackman led a campaign to have her husband's murder conviction quashed

Blackman, from Taunton, Somerset, was released after serving more than three years of a reduced seven-year sentence.

He added: "I will be eternally grateful to Claire and I cannot put into words how wonderful she is.

"Other inmates often said how lucky I was to have her fighting so hard for me."

Media caption, Sgt Blackman was driven away from prison in the early hours of Friday

Judges at the Court Martial Appeal Court were told Blackman had a recognised mental illness at the time of the killing in September 2011.

He said: "'Being out of prison is an immense feeling, but I am very conscious that my sentence is not complete.

"I have been released on licence, and there are certain conditions which I must - and I will - respect."

Mrs Blackman, 45, told the paper: "I watched the clock all afternoon. Al finally arrived in the middle of the night, and I felt such a surge of happiness.

'It still feels like a dream. We have spent so long on this rollercoaster ride and have always steeled ourselves for the worst-case scenario.

"Now we have got Al out, the result we always hoped for, it is taking time to sink in."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, Claire Blackman was present when her husband had his murder conviction reduced to manslaughter by an appeal court in March

Blackman had more than 13 years of service and had previously been deployed to Iraq on three occasions and to Afghanistan in 2007.

The killing on 15 September 2011 took place during the final month of 42 Commando's six-month tour of duty to Helmand province - a deployment which saw the unit lose seven men.

Footage from an unofficial helmet-mounted camera of another marine was found during an unrelated investigation and showed Blackman shooting the Afghan prisoner in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol.

The shooting took place after a British patrol base came under fire. One of two insurgents was seriously injured by gunfire from an Apache helicopter sent to provide air support, and the marines from 42 Commando found him in a field.

Image caption, Sgt Blackman's actions were caught on another marine's helmet camera

Two other marines from 42 Commando tried alongside Blackman in 2013 were acquitted.

Blackman lost an appeal against his conviction in May of the following year, but his 10-year minimum term was reduced to eight years.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission later granted him a fresh appeal after his lawyers submitted expert evidence relating to his mental state at the time of the offence.

His supporters had hoped the quashing of the murder conviction would lead to his reinstatement to the Royal Marines.

However, the judges at the appeal hearing said his dismissal from the service should remain.

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