British military 'may have held back details' of Terry Lloyd's death

The British military may have held back details of ITN journalist Terry Lloyd's death in Iraq, former ITN chief executive Stewart Purvis has told his inquest.

Purvis said despite numerous requests to the Defence Secretary, the information they were given about what happened was "limited".

He added that as a result, ITN had to send two of its own journalists into Basra to find out. Purvis said: "I came to the conclusion that the British military knew more about what happened at the top level than they were disclosing to us."

Lloyd, 50, died on March 22, 2003, just days after the Iraq conflict began, having crossed to the Basra area from Kuwait to work as a "unilateral" journalist operating independently from the invading coalition forces.

Giving evidence on the first day of an inquest into Lloyd's death, Purvis said that correspondents covering the war unilaterally, as opposed to being "embedded" with military units, were not given any information about troop movements despite requests from ITN.

Purvis told the inquest he believed the British Army's lack of co-operation after Lloyd's death was linked to the fact that he had been working unilaterally.

He said: "In my experience the British and the American military do not want unilateral teams operating full stop."

He later added: "From their point of view there is no incentive to co-operate with unilateral teams because they prefer you to be embedded. They want to control the information available and you are a breach of that control.

"I also think this was a factor in their attitude towards us and Lloyd's family following his death, that they were against unilateral reporters."

 

Lloyd was working with French cameraman Fred Nerac and Lebanese translator Hussein Osman when they were caught in crossfire between Iraqi and US forces.

Nerac is still classed as missing. Osman's remains have since been found and buried.

Purvis told the coroner's court at Oxford's Old Assizes that "the military did not wish to take any responsibility for unilaterals, to such an extent that in a sense they wouldn't even recognise their existence".

He acknowledged that information about troop movements would have been important to a correspondent travelling through a war zone in order to avoid getting caught in any crossfire, but he said: "It takes two parties to achieve that."

He said that while most reporters covering the Iraq conflict were embedded, some of the most experienced reporters, such as Lloyd, would be working independently.

He added ITN bosses were extremely cautious about safety and all reporters were told to wear flak jackets and sent on safety courses.

Purvis said: "It was not 'put your hand up if you would like to go to war', the selection process was very rigorous."

Asked by ITN legal representative Danny Friedman if ITN staff were forced to cover wars, or whether they were forced to work unilaterally once there, he responded: "Absolutely not."

News presenter Trevor McDonald told the court how he had learned of the death of his friend of 20 years. The pair had had breakfast together in Kuwait just days before Lloyd set off from the ITN base.

He said his friend was very keen to get started on the dangerous journey. "His interest in getting going quickly sticks out most in my mind," McDonald said.

But he denied that Lloyd was rushing in order to be the first journalist on the scene.

He told the court that cameraman Daniel Demoustier survived the incident and managed to return to the ITN base to explain what had happened. Sir Trevor said: "He was in a state of considerable shock. He looked very dishevelled, like he had been through a pretty horrifying experience.

"It took some time for him to collect his thoughts and tell us with as much clarity as he could what had happened."

McDonald paid tribute to ITN colleague Lloyd as a "journalist's journalist" whose experience and professionalism was respected by everybody who worked with him.

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