The Independent – 2006-10-15 01:24:07
(October 13, 2006) — ITN reporter Terry Lloyd was unlawfully killed by US forces working in southern Iraq, a coroner has found.
Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker said he would write to the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions “to see whether any steps can be taken to bring the perpetrators responsible for this to justice”.
Mr Lloyd, 50, was killed, together with Lebanese interpreter Hussein Osman and French cameraman Fred Nerac, near the Shatt al Basra Bridge outside Iraq’s second city of Basra on March 22, 2003, the coroner said.
Mr Lloyd was shot in the back after getting caught up in US and Iraqi crossfire, then shot in the head by American forces as he was taken away in a minibus for medical treatment. Mr Walker said: “I have no doubt that it was an unlawful act to fire on this minibus.”
During the eight-day inquest into the Derby-born reporter’s death, Mr Walker heard how Mr Lloyd and his team had crossed from Kuwait into Iraq as one of ITN’s few unilateral teams, where journalists work independently of the Armed Forces. Their brief was to travel towards Basra, interviewing civilians in the wake of the coalition troops on their feelings about the conflict. But they crossed over the frontline in the fierce battle for Basra and ran into Iraqi soldiers.
According to local witnesses, Mr Osman and Mr Nerac were arrested and put into an Iraqi pick-up truck with a mounted machine gun, which then opened fire on Mr Lloyd and cameraman Daniel Demoustier’s 4×4 vehicle.
American tanks lined up along the road then began to fire on the entire convoy, until first the Iraqi pick-up then Mr Lloyd’s 4×4 burst into flames.
Mr Demoustier returned to the inquest to tell how, as “all hell broke loose”, he drove his burning vehicle blindly forwards before turning to find Mr Lloyd had disappeared.
Ballistics expert Dr Thomas Warlow said Mr Lloyd was first hit by an Iraqi bullet fired from the pick-up truck, which he could have survived with rapid medical treatment. But he was then hit in the head by an American bullet as he was taken for medical treatment in a civilian minibus, which killed him outright.
His body was recovered and returned to his family in Cuddington, Buckinghamshire, while the remains of Mr Osman were later found and buried. Mr Nerac is still officially classed as missing.
Mr Walker said it was his view that the American tanks had been first to open fire on the two TV trucks and an Iraqi pick-up vehicle with mounted machine gun that had intercepted them. He went on that, had Mr Lloyd died following a shot fired in the first stage of fighting, even though he was travelling in a clearly-marked TV vehicle, he would have conceded that the American act was one of “self-defence” and would not consider it an unlawful act.
He said: “In fact, the wound he received (then) was, with appropriate skilled medical attention, survivable.” In fact, he said, the Americans opened fire on the minibus even though, he was satisfied, it “presented no threat to American forces” since it was a civilian vehicle, had stopped and turned around to pick up survivors, and was facing away from the US tanks.
He said: “If the vehicle was perceived as a threat, it would have been fired on before it did a U-turn. This would have resulted in damage to the front of the vehicle. I have no doubt it was the fact that the vehicle stopped to pick up survivors that prompted the Americans to fire on that vehicle.”
A spokesman for the Attorney General, who explained he could not comment further about the case, said: “We await the letter from the coroner.”
David Mannion, the editor in chief of ITN, said the company would fully support Mr Lloyd’s family to “bring those responsible for Terry’s death to account before a court of law”. Speaking after the inquest, Mr Mannion said: “All of us want and need to know the truth. Terry Lloyd was killed in an unlawful act by a US Marine who fired directly at the civilian minibus in which Terry, already badly injured, lay helpless. But we do not know the identity of the Marine who shot him.
“ITN therefore fully supports the Lloyd family in their pursuit of justice and we welcome the coroner’s decision to write to the Attorney General and the DPP in an effort to bring those responsible for Terry’s death to account before a court of law.”
Mr Mannion added: “I would also like to say something that I know Terry would have wished me to say. Independent, unilateral reporting, free from official strictures, is crucial; not simply to us as journalists but to the role we play in a free and democratic society.
“The loss of Terry, Fred and Hussein in pursuit of that aim has had a devastating and permanent effect upon ITN.
“In tribute to Terry, Fred and Hussein, ITN can do no better than quote the words of the coroner himself when he described them as ‘men of the highest calibre’.
“Finally, ITN would like to pay particular tribute to our cameraman, Daniel Demoustier, whose evidence underlines how close he came to being killed and whose only thoughts in the immediate aftermath of this terrible tragedy were not for his own safety but for that of his colleagues.”