Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Reporter's death 'unpreventable'

Sunday Mirror defence correspondent Rupert Hamer died in an explosion in Afghanistan

Nothing could have been done to prevent the death of an experienced war reporter in a bomb blast in Afghanistan, a coroner has ruled.

Sunday Mirror defence correspondent Rupert Hamer was travelling in a US Marine Corps armoured personnel carrier at the back of a resupply convoy when it was caught in the explosion on January 9 2010.

An inquest in Trowbridge, Wiltshire heard that he died despite wearing full standard issue body armour.

A US Marine was also killed and Sunday Mirror photographer Philip Coburn, who was sitting next to Mr Hamer, was seriously injured.

Recording a verdict of unlawful killing, David Ridley, Wiltshire and Swindon Coroner, said: "No matter how much training was given, I don't think it would have changed the outcome. This was not an act of war. It was a cold-blooded killing. The purpose of the device was to maim and kill American service personnel. Sadly the mine killed a member of the Marines but also wounded Mr Coburn and took Rupert's life."

Mr Hamer, 39, and Mr Coburn, 44, were travelling in a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle at the time. Mr Hamer had been defence correspondent for the Sunday Mirror since 2004 and was on his sixth assignment in Afghanistan.

Eugene Duffy, group managing editor of Mirror Group Newspapers, said that since the attack the company had made it official policy for journalists going to war zones to undergo five-day hostile environment training courses. Mr Hamer was believed to have completed such a course.

Mr Hamer was married with three children and lived in London. A keen fly-fisherman, he was born and raised in East Anglia, working for the Eastern Daily Press and the Bournemouth Evening Echo before joining the Sunday Mirror in 1997.

His widow, Helen, said after the inquest that she hoped the newspaper would learn lessons from his death, despite the coroner ruling that little could have been done to prevent it.

"The Mirror's attitude to its journalists going into battle areas before he died was very lax," she said. "I hope they tighten up their procedures to minimise the dangers."

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