Europe

James Le Mesurier: White Helmets co-founder died from fall, Turkey says

James Le Mesurier Image copyright James Le Mesurier/Twitter
Image caption James Le Mesurier received an OBE for his work with White Helmet volunteers in Syria

A British ex-soldier who helped found Syria's White Helmets volunteer group died as a result of a fall, Turkish forensic experts have concluded.

James Le Mesurier was found dead on a street below a window of his flat in Istanbul's Beyoglu area on 11 November

A post-mortem examination found the cause of death was "general body trauma linked to a fall from height", state broadcaster TRT said on Monday.

No DNA belonging to another person was found, it added.

The private news channel NTV meanwhile said a toxicology report showed Le Mesurier, 48, had taken sleeping pills.

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Image caption James Le Mesurier was found dead on a street in Istanbul, outside his home

Last week, the state-run Anadolu news agency said Le Mesurier's Swedish wife, Emma Winberg, had told police that he contemplated suicide in the days before his death and had started taking medication for a "stress disorder".

She said that on the night of his death Le Mesurier had taken a sleeping pill at 02:00, Anadolu cited a police statement as saying.

He awoke when she went to bed about two-and-a-half hours later and asked her if she wanted a sleeping pill as well, it added.

Ms Winberg reportedly said she woke up between 05:30 and 06:00, when the police knocked on the door of their flat. She then saw her husband's body.

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Media captionAfter the bombs go off in Syria, the White Helmets go in

Mr Le Mesurier was widely considered a founder of the White Helmets.

The organisation, which is also known as the Syria Civil Defence, helps rescue civilians caught up in attacks in areas of Syria controlled by the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.

In 2016, the White Helmets received the Right Livelihood Award in recognition for "outstanding bravery, compassion and humanitarian engagement in rescuing civilians". Later the same year the group was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

But the Syrian government and its allies Russia and Iran have accused the White Helmets of aiding terrorist groups - something the organisation has denied.

A week before he died, the Russian foreign ministry accused Le Mesurier of being a former agent of the UK's Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6. The UK's ambassador to the UN said the claim was "categorically untrue".

Le Mesurier received an OBE from the Queen in 2016 for "services to the Syria Civil Defence group and the protection of civilians in Syria".

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