Then there was a shot, a stunned silence, and another shot. Two of the male prisoners crumpled to the ground.

As the truth dawned, the women and children began to wail and scream.

There were two or three more shots. Slow. Rhythmic. Methodical.

More cries. Just tens of metres away, husbands, sons, uncles, brothers were getting it in the head.

I got my head back down into the hide, mentally numb now, as well as physically. You had to be able to throw that switch or you’d be barking at the moon.


For the next ten minutes, all I could hear were screams and the rhythmic tap of single shots. Then I heard the sound of vehicles, gradually getting louder. I slowly raised my head, and pointed the binos down the road.

A convoy of seven this time, all civilian Toyota 4x4s, two with flat beds and .50 cal machine-guns mounted over the cabs, was moving fast up the valley. The vehicles were new, too good for squaddies to be messing around in, and they bristled with whip antennae. This looked like a command group.

As they swung into the compound, I checked each one, but the windows and windscreens were too splattered with mud to make anyone out. The only people I could see were the heavily wrapped-up gunners on the .50 cals, who were being thrown around on the back, but trying to look cool.

The convoy pulled up outside the office block. Soldiers and bottle-washers ran towards them and fell in at attention. This was looking promising. I felt warmer already.

Mladic got out of the second vehicle, dressed in American camouflage BDU [Battle Dress Uniform] and a Serbian pillbox hat. He was just like his pictures; fifty years ago he could have been Hermann Goering’s double.

After a quick fuck-off salute, he was bonding big-time with the local commander. As he stood over the bodies, chatting to his junior officers, I turned on the beacon to get the platform stood to. It had only one frequency, constantly monitored by an American AWACS aircraft, circling the country some forty thousand feet above me.

I hit the send button. This close to the target, I couldn’t risk speech.

I kept on hitting it, maybe six or seven times, before a soft American female voice came through the earpiece. That was a pleasant change: last time it had been a hard-nosed guy with the kind of East Coast accent that took no prisoners.

‘Blue Shark Echo? Radio check.’

I hit the pressle twice. She would get squelch into her headphones.

She came back on, very quiet, very slow. ‘That’s OK, strength five, Blue Shark Echo. Do you have a target?’

I hit the pressle twice.

‘Roger, Blue Shark Echo. Stand by.’

AWACS would be telling Sarajevo I had the principal. The whole detect, decide, destroy system was being bypassed because the decision to destroy had already been taken. All Sarajevo had to do was authorize the aircraft to stand to.

Because this job was known only to about a dozen people, there was no way the command set-up could have operated from the UN safe zone at Sarajevo airport. Instead, they were in an office above a cafe in the city, probably huddling under the table right now as another Serb artillery bombardment rattled their windows.

Maybe an American pilot on one of the carriers was striding to an aircraft. Very soon he or she would be circling above the Adriatic, waiting for the call to make their approach to target. Maybe it was a Brit Tornado based in Italy, less than the distance from London to Scotland but a whole different world away. The crew wouldn’t even have time to get comfortable before they’d be heading home for hot coffee and a video. I didn’t have a clue, but it didn’t really matter. I wasn’t going to hear the aircraft, let alone see it.

I was waiting for her to come back and tell me a time to target. I just hoped that Mladic stayed static long enough. On the last job, time to target had been fifteen minutes.

The bottle-washers were getting busy again. Two were blacking out the ground-floor door-frame and windows with blankets. Then foldaway chairs and trestle tables were dragged out of the 4x4s and taken into the office block, followed by baskets of food and armfuls of wine bottles.

I couldn’t believe what came out next: a pair of candelabra, complete with candles. It reminded me of the cavalry officers I’d known before I’d joined the Regiment, who’d carry the regimental silver with them in their tanks on major exercises and set the table for dinner as if they were taking a break from the Charge of the Light Brigade. As an infantryman I used to honk about the crap hats and their fancy ways, green with envy as I opened my ration can of sweaty processed cheese.

Mladic just stood there with his hands on his hips, apparently oblivious to the carnage.

My new best friend was back on the net. ‘Blue Shark Echo, over.’

I hit the pressle twice.

‘I hear you fives, Blue Shark Echo. You will have a fifteen – that’s one five – minute time to target. Copy?’

I did. I hit the pressle twice as I watched bundles of firewood being taken into the office. Smoke was soon streaming out of the cracks in the wall. With luck he would just have sat down to eat by the time I started easing the Paveway up his arse.

I pulled my glove off with my teeth then slowly reached out to the front of the LTD and lifted the little plastic cover from the objective lens. Next I dug around in the breast pocket of my sniper suit for some toilet roll and gave the glass a wipe from the centre outwards to clear it of condensation. Then I eased myself up a little so I could look at the sight picture in the viewfinder. I aimed the crosshairs at the ground floor, on the area of wall between the two covered window-frames. I moved them vertically up, aiming at the point where the first floor hit the front elevation. With nine metres margin of error, I wanted to make sure that there was no chance it would just plough into the ground. Now it didn’t matter if it was nine metres high or left or right, it would still hit.

It looked as if pre-dinner drinks were about to be served. Mladic headed for the office block, his sidekicks in hot pursuit. The shooting continued as he disappeared inside.

There was nothing I could do now but wait. I couldn’t afford to call the platform in just yet. He might take it into his head to come outside again with his G and T and go for a wander. With the amount of alcohol, food and candelabra on show there was no rush. Well, there was, but I couldn’t cut corners.

I gave it ten minutes. Chances were he was staying inside now. I hoped he had seen enough dead bodies for the day.

I got on the net and hit the pressle five or six times.

‘Is that you, Blue Shark Echo? Send again.’

I hammered the pressle another couple of times.

She came back. ‘Do you have a designation?’

Press, press.

‘Roger that, confirm you have designation.’

Press, press.

‘Delayed fuse?’

Press, press.

‘Confirm no change to attack profile.’

I pressed again. The platform was coming in on the same bearing.

She’d be giving the good news to Sarajevo, and they’d be passing it on to an aircraft orbiting over the Adriatic.

It was about thirty seconds before she came back. ‘Blue Shark Echo, you have a platform. Time to target plus one five minutes. Five, four, three, two, one, check.’

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