Death of a Journalist

by Anthony C Heaford  - June 2018

Ian Hislop sees off his Private Eye defence correspondent, Paul Vickers 1962 - 2017
(also known as Squarebasher )

Paul Vickers slipped off this mortal coil in early October 2017; a man who had passed the British armed force’s phase one recruit training aged 46 was supposedly killed off by a previously well managed asthma condition, aged just 54. Paul's death was even described as ‘sudden’ in the less than kind obituary published by Ian Hislop.

Private Eye Opium Article 2 copy

I'd known Paul in his role as Private Eye’s defence correspondent for two-years after being introduced via the office of Private Eye magazine (PEm) in May 2015. My last correspondence with Paul was on 14 July 2017 when I copied him in on an email I sent to Ian Hislop, the magazines editor. That email contained my irrifutable evidence that Paul Vickers and PEm had printed lies in an article they published two-years before and in which they accused a high ranking and totally innocent Afghan government official Mohammad Daoud (pictured below) of complicity in the opium trade.

I now know this was a wilful lie told by the PEm defence correspondent as part of a shameless hatchet job on my evidence and claims that have since proved British military complicity in the Helmand drug trade. This coverup was started in November 2013 by then defence secretary Philip Hammond and recently (March 2018) had a second coat of whitewash curtesy of Gavin Williamson MP during his tenure as Defence Secretary.

Engineer Daoud helmand

Mr. Vickers and PEm were only a small (but critical) part in this establishment coverup, but part of it they were and remain. I gave them my testimony, photos and evidence in good faith, only to be rewarded with the most shameless of journalistic hatchet jobs.

They took evidence that if reported accurately should have been (and still should be) a mission damning front page story. Instead they left out the most critical points, invented evidence and even accused an innocent Afghan politician of having controlled government land where opium was produced. And this was in the province the accused politician had once been governor of and where he had sworn to clear government land of illegal opium production as his priority after he was installed as provincial governor by the British in 2005/06.

As well as this false accusation Square Basher (Paul Vickers) also omitted two-critical facts from his story:

The British commanders not only tolerated opium production and processing besides 
camp Bastion, they protected it from interference from Afghan security officials

On EXACTLY the same day that I was guarding opium harvesting besides
camp Bastion, one hundred and seventy British soldiers were patrolling through
mine fields on a farcical poppy erradication mission just 15-km away

narrow opium view copy

Opium harvesting besides camp Bastion airfield,
guarded by British soldiers (me)

My emails with the Editor

Editor Ian Hislop had emailed me on the 7 July 2017 (email above) standing by his publication, his defence correspondent & claimed sources. It had taken me three years of relentless research and searching to find the evidence to prove their accusation against the former Helmand governor as wrong, and a week later I submitted that evidence to the PEm office. This photo (on right) shows and proves that the Mohammad Daoud who controlled the land in question was in fact Washir district governor Mohammad Daoud Noorzai, NOT Engineer Mohammed Daoud. 

Within three-months of my proving Paul Vickers had lied, the PEm defence corresponent was dead; reputedly killed by a long standing and previously well managed asthma condition.

Slipped, or pushed?

I gave PEm and Paul Vickers my reports and evidence detailing the British military’s criminal and duplicitous involvement in the illegal Afghan opium trade during our recent occupation of Helmand province. Paul chose protecting the establishment over journalistic integrity or consideration to me and my state of mind at that time. I believe that decision may ultimately have cost him his life. 

I don’t think Paul was murdered, but with my being a veteran and now a reporter of a similar age I could understand how my exposing his clumsy journalistic corruption to PEm’s editor may have given an already troubled man a push towards deciding to stop taking his asthma medication, with his full awareness of the inevitable consequences. Throughout our professional spate Paul and I had always maintained a friendly discourse; I found him a personable man who gave me a considerable amount of his time. I am very sorry Paul died, and I took no pleasure in proving his professional fallibility to PEm, but I will pursue this matter to its conclusion out of respect for the truth and performing a task that I hope will eventually give Paul Vickers some peace too.

I am currently (about to) preparing a submission to the Press Complaints Commission covering my correspondence with Ian Hislop on this matter and detailing his apparent refusal to print a retraction, apology or correction regarding the false accusation he published against the former Helmand governor, printed in Private Eye magazine in June 2015.

Link to my reports on British forces guarding opium harvesting:

Link to Private Eye magazines article based on the same information:

Private Eye Opium Article 2 copy

A possibly more honest obituary for Mr. Vickers, as posted on an informal military chat forum:
(please click for full-sized image)