Kent journalist gives only UK account of UN bomb disaster

A reporter from Kent News and Pictures was the only British journalist on the scene when a bomb killed 20 at the UN headquarters in Baghdad, writes Dominic Ponsford.

Grant Hodgson was himself wounded in the leg by the blast and carried seven injured people out of the badly damaged Canal Hotel. He then called his newsdesk on satellite phone ensuring that the Maidstone-based agency was the first to put the story out. Among the dead were UN senior envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Hodgson’s first-person account of the disaster was printed in numerous papers including The Sun, Daily Express, Daily Record, Daily Mail and Daily Mirror. Hodgson has been in Baghdad since May for the agency and previously worked for education website Schoolsnet and the Brighton Evening Argus.

The agency reasoned that it was worth sending a team over to Iraq because the nationals had begun to cut back the number of correspondents. News editor Barry Rabbetts said: “He was there covering a routine press conference, it wouldn’t have made the national press over here. But he likes to keep his finger on the pulse so he knows what’s going on.

“When he phoned up I was glad it was Grant telling us there’d been an explosion and we knew he was OK. If you can’t get hold of someone and you hear that something like that has happened you immediately start worrying.”

Previously, Hodgson and photographer Phil Toscano were among the first British journalists at the house where Uday and Qusay Hussein were killed. Hodgson’s account of the incident included harrowing eye-witness details of the human cost.

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