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Chris Parry: Aid worker may have been killed by Wagner Group mercenaries in possible 'war crime', inquest hears

British aid worker Chris Parry, who died in Ukraine, may have been killed by Wagner Group mercenaries in a possible "war crime", an inquest has heard.

Mr Parry, 28, went missing with fellow British national Andrew Bagshaw near Soledar on the bitterly contested eastern frontline in January 2023.

At the time of their deaths, the UK Foreign Office insisted they were killed by an artillery shell.

But Mr Parry's inquest in Oxford today concluded that he died of gunshot wounds to the head and torso.

The coroner did not go so far as to point blame specifically at the Wagner Group - the Russian mercenary company whose fighters have engaged in heavy fighting in Ukraine.

However, the inquest heard evidence that suggested their possible involvement and his parents Rob and Christine told Sky News that they hold the private military group responsible.

Coroner Darren Salter said there was a lack of evidence about the final moments of Mr Parry's life, but concluded his death was an unlawful killing.

"It seems to me therefore to conclude given the circumstances, given the cause of death, that he was unlawfully killed whilst engaged in humanitarian work," he said.

While he emphasised that it was not the purpose of an inquest to comment on such issues, he added: "What I can say is the circumstances point to a war crime."

Mr Salter added that he was liaising with other UK agencies that work specifically on war crimes in respect of the case of Mr Parry and Mr Bagshaw.

Read more:
The Cornish man who saved hundreds from frontlines

Were the Wagner Group involved in the killings?

Mr Parry was regarded as a "trailblazer" by his peers in Ukraine, the inquest heard, who was always willing to go on an evacuation run no matter the danger.

He was involved in the evacuation of more than 400 old, young and vulnerable people, his family say.

In a witness statement from one of Mr Bagshaw's contacts in Ukraine, the inquest heard that it was feared he and Mr Parry had gone missing in territory controlled by Russian armed forces.

Evidence from Mr Bagshaw's phone was cited, including that the profile picture was changed to a black spade symbol - one often associated with Yevgeny Prigozhin's mercenaries.

Mr Salter said this suggested the phone was "in the hands of someone who was indicating that they were part of the Wagner Group".

At this point, Christine Parry, Mr Parry's mother, interjected: "It sounds quite damning doesn't it?"

'Wagner have no morals'

In a statement read out by the coroner, Mrs Parry said: "He was particularly proud of all the children he saved.

"We were devastated. We will never get over this, we will always remember him."

She said that as his family, they wanted to continue the humanitarian work her son started.

"Ukraine will be in our hearts forever," she added.

Speaking outside of the inquest, Mr Parry's parents were full of praise for their son.

"We're so incredibly proud of Chris," his father, Rob Parry, told Sky News. "He was a trailblazer in what he did."

"He was incredibly brave, he never thought of his own safety," his mother added. "He put himself into such dangerous situations to get elderly, vulnerable people, children out of these awful war situations.

"When we've been in Ukraine people have spoken and remembered everything that he's done."

Mr Parry's parents said they held the Wagner Group responsible for their son's death.

His father said: "They have no morals. They just kill willy-nilly, they shoot first and ask questions later. They don't care."

Asked if they want the UK government to pursue their son's death as a war crime and hold Russia accountable, Mrs Parry said: "Absolutely, yes."

She added: "We will do our utmost to get that registered."

'Darker truth'

The family of Mr Baghsaw, who live in New Zealand, previously said they believed there may have been a "darker truth" behind his death.

His father, Professor Philip Bagshaw, told Sky News ahead of the inquest that he believed his son was "executed".

Referencing a post-mortem examination of his son's body, he said the results showed that his son was shot in the torso and once to the head.

He described it as "classic execution style" and said people he and his wife Dame Sue Bagshaw have spoken to in Ukraine suggest it was carried out by Wagner troops.

At the inquest for Mr Parry on Tuesday, the coroner said the post-mortem evidence was not able to indicate at what range Mr Parry sustained his gunshot wounds.