Hero Royal Marine who was awarded George Cross held in Dubai for seven months after being arrested on spy charges

5 June 2024, 09:19 | Updated: 5 June 2024, 09:29

A Royal Marine is being held in Dubai on spy charges
A Royal Marine is being held in Dubai on spy charges. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

A Royal Marine who won the George Cross for bravery in Afghanistan has been held in Dubai for seven months after being accused of spying.

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Lance Corporal Matt Croucher, 40, who is the most highly decorated Royal Marine to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, was arrested in November last year and charged with “intentionally and illegally accessing a telecommunications network”.

He was locked up for four days, during which time he was forced to sleep on the floor due to the prison being so overcrowded and he ate a “primitive meal of rice and chicken twice a day with very unsanitary amenities”, a friend told the Times.

Croucher was later freed from prison pending further investigation, due to authorities being unable to find enough evidence against him.

No other details over the case were provided, such as who he was accused of spying on and who he had allegedly been gathering evidence for.

But he had his passport confiscated and was banned from leaving the UAE.

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Lance Corporal Matt Croucher, who is a George Cross medal holder.
Lance Corporal Matt Croucher, who is a George Cross medal holder. Picture: Alamy

Croucher, who is now a security consultant based out of the UK, was interrogated for six hours by Dubai’s police Criminal Investigation Department (CID), a close friend told the paper.

He was asked about his role within the Ministry of Defence and UK intelligence services as well as what relation he had with the British embassy.

Officials are said to have also retrieved an electronic device he claimed he used for security penetration testing.

Since his release, Croucher has been required to report to the Al Barsha police station weekly but the case against him has not progressed.

He lived in Dubai from 2014 to 2021 working with the authorities on "security-related matters", the Times reported.

Lance Corporal Matt Croucher with the daysack he was wearing when he threw himself on a grenade.
Lance Corporal Matt Croucher with the daysack he was wearing when he threw himself on a grenade. Picture: Alamy

His family, from Solihull, said in a statement: "We're shocked at the circumstances which have played out. He was only due to be away for a couple of weeks.

"We don't understand why it is taking so long to process the case.

"We believe the case to be made up and ridiculous. The Foreign Office has been useless, often making things worse and telling him his case has been formally concluded.

"This has caused our family immense stress and we just hope this can be concluded at the earliest opportunity."

Croucher's friend added: "Unable to earn, access banking and having to fund his stay in Dubai, unable to leave, has caused significant financial strain. 

"This has also put a huge strain on his family who are left waiting in the UK with no answers or support.

"He was only due to be passing through the country for a few days to catch up with friends before returning to the UK."

Lance Corporal Matt Croucher meeting the late Queen
Lance Corporal Matt Croucher meeting the late Queen. Picture: Alamy

Croucher won the George Cross - the highest honour for courage on the battlefield not "in the face of the enemy" - for his actions in February 2008.

He stepped on a tripwire triggering a grenade during a night raid on a Taliban compound and, instead of running away, smothered the explosion.

He twisted on his back so his backpack could take the full force, allowing for the rest of his patrol to escape the blast.

Croucher is one of only 22 living recipients of the medal, with only 406 ever having been awarded.

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