ITN presses Hoon for inquiry into missing duo

Nerac: wife faced “wall of silence”

ITN has said it is “amazed” at the Ministry of Defence’s reluctance to help it investigate the disappearance in Iraq of cameraman Fred Nerac and interpreter Hussein Osman, both declared missing after the US army attack which killed Terry Lloyd.

In reply to a request from ITN, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon wrote to ITN chairman Mark Wood that his department would only investigate if the broadcaster came up with evidence of a “war crime”.

Wood wrote back on Monday urging him to reconsider and put military police on the case.

At a press conference this week, ITN editor-in-chief Stewart Purvis described Hoon’s decision as extraordinary. “We are asking that the British authorities give clear instructions to military police to actively investigate Fred and Hussein’s whereabouts,” he said.

Purvis said the British military, who are in control of Basra – the area where the attack took place – were “being co-operative” but were not conducting their own investigations. ITN was told by the Basra administration that it could not “actively investigate, because it does not have the authority,” added Purvis.

Fred’s wife Fabienne told the press conference she had faced a “wall of silence” from the British Government and was seeking an audience with the Prime Minister.

ITN inquiries have yielded some leads. It has sent foreign news editor Nick Walsh to work full time on the investigation, in conjunction with security consultancy AKE. The firm, run by former members of the SAS, has found evidence suggesting that Osman and Nerac may have been abducted before the fire fight started.

In a video dossier compiled by ITN containing details of its discoveries, it says: “The men could have been pulled from the car before the fire fight; it is extremely possible they were taken prisoner; it is also possible the ITN men were placed in the back of the pick-up truck [driven by Iraqi soldiers alongside Terry Lloyd and Daniel Demoustier’s vehicle before the attack].” Nerac and Osman’s vehicle and press passes have since been found in in the town of Az-Zubayr in a building that it is believed used to be run by the local Ba’ath Party.

The hospital in Basra has agreed to supply ITN with DNA from any bodies delivered to its morgue.

It has also been revealed that the US Marines sent in their own TV crew to film the scene of the fire fight within an hour of the incident. ITN has asked for details of the tape or a report on any investigations into the shooting.

By Wale Azeez

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