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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 October 2006, 20:21 GMT 21:21 UK
Cameraman's fate remains unsolved
Fabienne Mercier-Nerac, widow of cameraman Fred Nerac
Fabienne Mercier-Nerac's husband is officially missing
The widow of a French cameraman caught up in gunfire in Iraq has wept at an inquest as she heard how her husband's fate remained a mystery.

Fred Nerac, Lebanese interpreter Hussein Osman and ITN reporter Terry Lloyd were apparently caught in crossfire between Iraqi and US forces.

The remains of Mr Osman and Mr Lloyd were found after the incident in 2003.

But Angela Frier, of ITN, told Fabienne Mercier-Nerac that despite her efforts, Mr Nerac remains officially missing.

The team was travelling independently on the border of Kuwait and Iraq, with the aim of reaching Basra, when it is thought they were caught up in crossfire.

It was on 22 March 2003, just days after the conflict began.

'Main objective'

"I have to tell you Fabienne," said Mrs Frier at the second day of Mr Lloyd's inquest in Oxford, "my main objective was to find out what happened to Fred and Osman and to bring Terry's body back for his family.

"I deeply and personally regret that I was unable to do the same for you."

Terry Lloyd
Terry Lloyd died while reporting on the war in Iraq
Mrs Frier told Mrs Mercier-Nerac that she was told by surviving cameraman Daniel Demoustier he had seen Mr Nerac standing by his vehicle when the shooting started and that he had jumped into a ditch beside the road.

Mrs Frier also said she sought help from the Red Cross in identifying and bringing Mr Lloyd's body to Kuwait in the days that followed the killing, as well as searching hospitals in Basra for signs of Mr Osman or Mr Nerac.

But she said the situation in Basra was by then chaotic.

"On that day 25 people had been killed and 70 people brought into the main hospital in Basra," she said.

She also said she saw Al Jazeera TV footage of a long-range shot of those casualties and thought one - dressed in a black t-shirt and pale trousers - could be Mr Nerac.

Cautious approach

She said she asked the British Army to sweep the road where Mr Lloyd's team were attacked for bodies, but they said it was under US military control. The next day it passed into UK control as the US forces moved north, but the Army refused to sweep the road despite daily requests until it received "a formal request from London" which did not come, she said.

He had no appetite for taking unnecessary risks
Tim Singleton of ITN on his former colleague Terry Lloyd
Earlier in the day, ITN head of news gathering Jonathan Munro had told the coroner that British forces could not only be unhelpful but sometimes "obstructive" when it came to "unilateral" independent journalists.

He said: "We were very concerned about it and our concern was shared by colleagues in other networks. We made our views known to the Ministry of Defence."

Oxfordshire assistant deputy coroner Andrew Walker also heard evidence from Tim Singleton, sent by ITN to Iraq to ensure reporters were properly equipped to go into theatre, and act as their "eyes and ears" once there.

He reiterated colleagues' assertions that Mr Lloyd had not intended to advance ahead of coalition forces.

Mr Walker said: "It's absolutely clear to me now, and I can see him telling me, that he had no intention of going in front of the gunners.

"He had no appetite for taking unnecessary risks."

The inquest was adjourned until Thursday.


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