Lloyd inquest: ITN was warned of the dangers

ITN was warned that the area where Terry Lloyd and his team were operating was "very dangerous" the day before he was killed, the inquest into his death heard today.

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Partridge, deputy director of the Coalition Press Information Centre (CPIC) for the second Gulf War, told the inquest he had warned an ITN producer that "it would be safer to drink two bottles of whisky and drive the wrong way down the M4" than pass through the Kuwaiti demilitarised zone into southern Iraq.

He said in meetings with editors before the conflict began, "it was made crystal clear that it was very very dangerous" to report from the area since it would be a "fast-moving, mechanised battle".

He also contradicted suggestions by former ITN chief executive Stewart Purvis that the British Army were against unilateral reporters – those who operate independently rather than being "embedded" with, or operating alongside, specific units.

He said: "I would say (the unilaterals) were encouraged. Our function was to facilitate the press."

Earlier today a cameraman told of the terrifying moment when "all hell broke loose" and he found himself in the middle of a gun fight which killed his colleague, ITN reporter Terry Lloyd.

Daniel Demoustier, a Belgian national, told Lloyd's Oxford inquest that he was convinced he was going to die as American tanks opened fire on the ITN convoy as it approached Basra in southern Iraq on March 22, 2003.

The team had crossed from the Kuwaiti border to travel independently of coalition forces and interview civilians about their feelings in the first few days of the conflict.

Instead, they found themselves caught up in fierce fighting between Iraqi and American troops.

Lloyd and Lebanese interpreter Hussein Osman died in the incident while French cameraman Fred Nerac is still officially missing.

Speaking on the fifth day of the 50-year-old veteran broadcaster's inquest, Demoustier told Oxfordshire assistant deputy coroner Andrew Walker the team had been driving towards the bridge in civilian traffic when they spotted Iraqi troops coming towards them and turned round.

He said he saw the second vehicle in the ITN convoy, carrying Nerac and Osman, stopped by an Iraqi military vehicle, then saw an Iraqi military vehicle pull up beside him and the soldiers inside give him a thumbs-up sign.

He said: "At that same time gunfire started. It was definitely not coming from right with me – it came from a distance.

"Immediately I ducked down under the steering wheel. Then hell broke loose completely.

"I was under my steering wheel and tried to drive. I kept my foot on the pedals and the car was still going but I couldn't see where I was going. The machine gun's fire was directly targeting my car.

"I was absolutely sure I was going to die, I was 100 per cent sure. I realised that at this stage the fire was coming from the automatic machine guns and the power of these things is amazing. I stuck my head to the right and I saw my passenger door was open and Terry was not in the car."

Related articles:
Cameraman's plea to save Terry Lloyd (Friday 6 October)
British military 'may have held back details' of Lloyd's death (Tuesday 3 October)
After three years, Terry Lloyd inquest to be held (Thursday 28 September)

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