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STUNTMAN IN REAL-LIFE DOG OF WAR 'EXECUTION' 007 movie tough guy keeps his bloody past top secret.

TOUGH James Bond stuntman Neil Finnighan is at the centre of a real-life jungle "execution" horror.

Finnighan, 34, a former British Army para who worked on the Bond blockbuster Tomorrow Never Dies and a string of other top films, used to hire himself out as a mercenary.

And he is part of a sinister mystery which left a fellow "soldier of fortune" dead in the jungle.

His dashing movie lifestyle, rubbing shoulders with stars like Sylvester Stallone and 007 star Pierce Brosnan, is a million miles away from the steamy jungles of South America where he was paid huge fees to use his combat training as a killer.

That's where fellow mercenary John Richards, from the Isle of Wight, was allegedly tied to a tree before being blasted to death at point-blank range.

Other mercenaries have now revealed Finnighan's part in that brutal killing.

Since those days Finnighan, nicknamed Finney, has hidden his past from the glitzy showbiz world in which he now lives.

He swapped warfare for an Equity card to appear alongside Stallone in the futuristic Judge Dredd and had a part in The Fifth Element with Harrison Ford. He also worked with Richard Gere and Sean Connery in the medieval epic First Knight.

Finnighan, of Middlesbrough, Cleveland, has also appeared with Amanda Burton in the BBC's Silent Witness and has had parts in Soldier, Soldier and Our Friends in the North.

He flew out on the fateful mission as part of a crack team of ex-servicemen fighting for rebels in the South American country of Surinam.

His six-man unit was hired to train a rebel commando force and launch strikes on army bases in the tropical jungle.

At the time, the former Dutch colony was in chaos as anti-government troops tried to topple the president.

The team of soldiers were hand-picked by John Richards, 32, a former French Foreign Legion para who wanted to be king of the jungle.

As he recruited his comrades, Richards said: "There is excitement in knowing that you are alive and that you are playing with death."

The squad included London-based Irishman Bill Oakey, 37, who had also served with the Foreign Legion, and former Royal Marine Alan Boydel, from Devon.

They were all promised pounds 30,000 for three months' work after joining up with the leader of the guerrilla force, Ronnie Brunswijk.

The men travelled deep into the jungle and split into two groups.

But the team headed by 32-year-old Richards ran into trouble and ended up in a battle in which seven soldiers were killed.

Oakey, Boydel and Finnighan, who had not been involved in the bungled ambush, believed Richards had deliberately planned to get them shot so he could grab their money.

In a shocking confession to a close friend, 34-year-old Boydel described how they hatched the plot to murder Richards.

He admitted: "When they took him to the jungle, I felt terrible but he deserved it.

"They tied him to a tree and he asked, 'What's going to happen to me?'

"Bill just said, 'You're going to get bitten by mosquitoes and then Ronnie is going to question you.

"Finney had a Mosboro shotgun, Bill had a FAL rifle and I had a Mosboro. I said I couldn't do it. Then I heard John scream No, then bang, bang, bang.

"Bill's gun jammed, so he cocked it again and Finney was pumping shots into John.

"I saw Bill throw it down and swear. He grabbed the shotgun off Finney and I saw the shells hitting him and he was twisting around."

He added: "All his chest was gone. I walked over and said, 'Yeah, he's dead'.

"But as I walked away I heard this voice saying, 'Why are you doing this to me?' so I turned round and put the barrel to his head and went boom. I was sick after I'd done that. I was a bit upset that night but Finney said he deserved it because he was trying to get us killed.

"John had every intention of ripping us off and he deserved to die for that. If you are in a mercenary operation the rule is 'don't muck the boys around, you are going to get killed'.

"It is an unwritten rule. He was whacked and his body was torn apart. We dragged his body into the bush. I asked if we were going to bury him but Bill and Finney said, 'No, leave him for the animals'."

After the killing the three left the jungle and were arrested by government forces. They were deported the following day.

But they still had time to watch the government-run TV station display Richards' blood-splattered body.

Officials claimed Surinam troops had ambushed the mercenary leader who was shown with half his head blown away.

Boydel added in his confession, which was secretly recorded: "We watched it all on TV in a bar. What they said covered us.

"OK, we whacked him but if it ever gets back to the British Government we are going to be on a murder charge."

In an interview during his Surinam escapade, Finnighan said he was approached for the job while working as a personal bodyguard in London.

He said he had no worries about hiring himself as a mercenary but claimed he would never work for Communists.

"We're fighting for the right side," he added.

"As long as the money's right we'll do anything." Finnighan has never been questioned about his involvement in the jungle killing. Last week he refused to talk about his life as a mercenary, claiming his filming schedule was too hectic.

On his Equity registration form, Finnighan boasts skills in martial arts, boxing, para-chuting, trampolining and horse riding.

It states he saw active service in the Falklands, Ulster and South America.

Security consultant Mike Pemberton, a distinguished former Foreign Legion paratrooper who was on the mission, said: "Most people on the job were just cowboys."

And French TV producer Eric Deroo, who filmed early parts of the mission, added: "They were playing Rambo. It was as if they were making a film."

Now Finnighan really is making movies - but no-one who sees him on the big screen would guess that he had such a past.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Qualtrough, Stuart; Sutton, Caroline
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Apr 12, 1998
Words:1039
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