A FORMER Colchester soldier has been cleared of murdering a wounded insurgent in Afghanistan.

But Robert Semrau faces up to five years in a military prison after he was convicted of “disgraceful conduct”.

Semrau, 36, now a captain in the Canadian Army, served with Colchester-based 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, between 1999 and 2003.

He denied shooting a man who was suffering severe wounds.

After a four-month court martial, which heard evidence in Canada and Afghanistan, a military panel concluded he shot and killed the unarmed insurgent.

Semrau was acquitted of second-degree murder, attempted murder and negligent performance of military duty. But the father-of-one was convicted of disgraceful conduct and faces up to five years in a military prison when he is sentenced next week.

The case centred on an incident, in October 2008, when Semrau was leading a team of Canadian soldiers mentoring an Afghan National Army unit.

The troops were ambushed near Lashkar Gah. After a helicopter strike, the patrol found a wounded Taleban insurgent and the body of a second fighter.

Two witnesses claimed they saw Semrau fire two shots from his rifle at the wounded man. The soldiers moved on and a body was never recovered.

The trial heard Semrau told fellow officers he wanted to put a wounded and dying man out of his misery.

While with 2 Para, Semrau served in Northern Ireland, Macedonia and Afghanistan.

Semrau’s brother, Bill Semrau, said the family was “disappointed” at the conviction and thanked thousands of people who backed Semrau through a Facebook group.

He added: “As a family, we always believed my brother did nothing wrong. We put our faith in the military justice system.”

Canadian Army soldier Capt Geoff Haskell said of Semrau: “He’s not just any soldier. He’s one of the best out there, so this kind of challenge he’s facing now is pretty significant. He’s facing it with a lot of dignity and a lot of strength.

“Being in the infantry, you face a lot of hardships, so he’s inherently trained to deal with this kind of pressure.”