In Brief

British founder of White Helmets found dead

Death comes a week after Moscow accused him of spying

A former British Army office who founded the organisation that trained the White Helmets rescue group in Syria has been found dead in Istanbul.

The body of James Le Mesurier, who set up the Mayday Rescue emergency response group, was discovered yesterday near his home in the Turkish capital.

According to reports in the Turkish media, Le Mesurier was found with fractures to his head and legs and appeared to have fallen from the balcony of his apartment.

His wife told the authorities that she and her husband went to bed at about 4am after taking sleeping pills. Later, she was woken by knocking on the door, as her husband lay in the street surrounded by police.

Sky News special correspondent Alex Crawford said Le Mesurier’s wife had been “telling friends that he had just begun taking anti-depressants”.

Crawford added: “She says she was not disturbed by any intruder and appeared to be at pains to try to quash rumours that somehow he’d been killed.”

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The cause of Le Mesurier’s death is unknown but CNN reports that it comes after he was accused of being a spy by the Russian foreign ministry.

Last week, the Russian foreign ministry tweeted: “The White Helmets' co-founder, James Le Mesurier, is a former agent of Britain's MI6, who has been spotted all around the world, including in the Balkans and the Middle East.

“His connections to terrorist groups were reported back during his mission in Kosovo.”

The Mayday Rescue Foundation described him as a “great leader” and a “visionary” as it confirmed his death.

In 2016, the White Helmets received the Right Livelihood Award in recognition for “outstanding bravery, compassion and humanitarian engagement in rescuing civilians”. In the same year the group was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and Le Mesurier received an OBE.

However, the BBC points out that the White Helmets is “seen as a terrorist group by Syria's government”.

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