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James Le Mesurier obituary


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James Le Mesurier obituary

Former British Army officer who co-founded the White Helmets civil defence group in Syria

In early 2002, a young former British Army captain arrived in Jerusalem for a sensitive project. His job was to help run a prison in Jericho to hold six detainees who had been barricaded with Yasser Arafat in the Palestinian leader’s headquarters in Ramallah.

It was the first of many roles that immersed James Le Mesurier in the Middle East over the next 17 years, and which ended with his death in Istanbul this week at the age of 48. From the peak of the Palestinian intifada to the savagery of Iraq, the insatiable ambitions of the Gulf states and the blood-sodden soil of Syria, where in 2014 he co-founded the volunteer rescue group the White Helmets, Le Mesurier had a vantage point like few others.

Through his experience on the ground, working in security and as a humanitarian co-ordinator, Le Mesurier became convinced that the conventional models of stabilisation run by big-budget contractors in the region were dysfunctional, and that the only viable path to recovery was through empowering and engaging local communities.

The career he carved was perhaps unique among long-term expatriates there; it was certainly among the most scrutinised and, in recent years, among the most slandered. Stabilisation – and what the term really meant – became central to Le Mesurier’s work as he crossed a broken region, taking an ever deepening personal stake in the events that were shaping it.

Born in Singapore to Benjamin Le Mesurier, who became lieutenant-colonel and commandant of the Royal Marines, and his wife, Ewa-Lotta, James went to Canford school in Dorset before starting at Ulster University, where he joined the Queen’s Belfast Officer Training Corps. Being a cadet in Northern Ireland was difficult at the time, and he switched to Aberystwyth University, where he took a degree in international relations and strategic studies. Sandhurst followed; there he topped his officer cadet intake, winning the Queen’s medal for character and leadership in 1993.

He made his name as a young captain with the Royal Green Jackets in Kosovo, where he was inspired by the efforts to reintegrate the Kosovo Liberation Army into civil defence roles, before joining the UN mission there as an adviser. That role, under Nick Carter (now General Sir Nick Carter, chief of defence staff), became a springboard to Jericho after he left the army in 2000.


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Turkish authorities:  no foul play ...
Turkish prosecutors on Monday closed the case on the death of James Gustaf Edward Le Mesurier, a former British intelligence officer who fell to his death in Istanbul last November.

The Chief Prosecutor’s Office ruled that Le Mesurier died of a fall from a great height, dispelling allegations that he might have been murdered.

Prosecutors also concluded the investigation into his wife Emma Winberg, who was barred from leaving Turkey as the investigation continued, and declared grounds for non-prosecution for her.


Not long after Le Mesurier's death, reports began circulating that claimed the former intelligence officer was killed by Russian spies, drawing links between his death to botched assassination attempts like the Skripal poisoning incident of 2018.

His behavior captured on security camera footage initially led authorities to believe foul play was involved. Hours before his death, Le Mesurier was recorded at a grocery store smiling as he bought cigarettes for himself and his wife.

The deceased Briton’s wife told police that her husband had given her sleeping pills, which he himself also took before they both went to sleep.

However, footage of his lifeless body showed Le Mesurier did not change his clothes before going to bed. He was still wearing the same shirt and trousers he wore hours before when buying cigarettes. He also had the same expensive wristwatch he was sporting earlier when his body was discovered, an unusual accessory for someone to wear while going to bed.

Authorities suspected Winberg, too, as a fellow foreign resident suspected of having a background in espionage. She has insisted on the claim that Le Mesurier committed suicide, although Winberg remains the only person who could have possibly witnessed the act. The widow's account of their meeting with Faruk Habib, a longtime friend, has also raised suspicions. Habib told police their meeting with Le Mesurier lasted no more than around half an hour, while Winberg said the meeting lasted around two hours.

Le Mesurier allegedly jumped to his death from his lean-to roof, exiting the window of his house. He apparently walked 10 meters before jumping, swerving around air conditioner panels located on the roof, instead of falling directly from the section of the lean-to roof in front of the window.

But despite all the conspiracy theories, Turkish authorities ultimately ruled his death a suicide ...