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Last Updated: Monday, 9 October 2006, 19:48 GMT 20:48 UK
Lloyd cameraman 'feared for life'
ITN journalist Terry Lloyd
Veteran war reporter Terry Lloyd died in Iraq in March 2003
A cameraman was "convinced he was going to die" in crossfire between Iraqi and US troops, he has told the inquest into the death of journalist Terry Lloyd.

Belgian national Daniel Demoustier said he was "terrified" when US tanks opened fire on the ITN convoy as it approached Basra in southern Iraq in March 2003.

The Oxford inquest heard he, Mr Lloyd and Lebanese interpreter Hussein Osman had crossed from the Kuwaiti border.

Mr Lloyd, 50, and Mr Osman died. French cameraman Fred Nerac is still missing.

Mr Demoustier said he believed independent war reporting must continue, despite the dangers it posed.

He said: "Unilateral journalism (where journalists work independently of the armed forces) is of the highest importance.

"We can't give this up and I am absolutely sure that both Terry and Fred would continue to do what they did."

Daniel Demoustier
I was absolutely sure I was going to die, I was 100% sure
Cameraman Daniel Demoustier

The inquest also heard how footage showing US troops firing on Mr Lloyd may have been edited out of a video sent to British investigators.

Royal Military Police investigator Major Kay Roberts told the inquest that an expert estimated that 15 minutes of film had been cut from the beginning of the tape.

The film, taken by a cameraman attached to the unit alleged to be responsible for firing on Mr Lloyd, begins with footage of the team's burnt-out vehicles.

Missing footage

Maj Roberts said: "He [the expert] does conclude that at the start of the recording the timeframe jumps by about 15 minutes."

Earlier Mr Demoustier explained the harrowing events which led to Mr Lloyd's death.

The inquest heard the news team were travelling independently of coalition forces to "interview civilians about their feelings in the first few days of the conflict" on 22 March 2003.

Mr Demoustier told Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker the team had been driving towards the bridge in "civilian traffic when they saw Iraqi troops coming towards them and turned round".

He said the second convoy vehicle, which Mr Lloyd and Mr Osman were in, was stopped by an Iraqi military vehicle, he then saw an Iraqi military vehicle halt beside him and the soldiers inside then give him a "thumbs-up sign".

"At that same time gunfire started. It came from a distance," explained Mr Demoustier.

Chelsey Lloyd
Mr Lloyd's daughter, Chelsey, was present at the inquest

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

"The machine gun's fire was directly targeting my car.

"I was absolutely sure I was going to die, I was 100% sure.

"I stuck my head to the right and I saw my passenger door was open and Terry was not in the car."

Mr Demoustier told the court he looked up and saw the car roof was on fire - petrol cans the team had been carrying with them had ignited.

The 44-year-old hurled himself out just before the car exploded.

"Most of the bullets were definitely coming from the American tanks," he said.

He described how he lay in the sand and mud for up to 30 minutes before attempting to stand.

Mr Demoustier told the court how he looked behind him to search for his colleagues and saw the second ITN vehicle parked up with the doors open.

Unique tragedy?

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Partridge, deputy director of the Coalition Press Information Centre for the second Gulf War, told the inquest 60 soldiers had been looking after the 2,800 journalists operating in the area at the time.

He was asked whether, to avoid future deaths, a two-way communication system between the media and military could be established to prevent unilateral reporters from straying into dangerous areas.

Lt Col Partridge responded: "In a perfect world, yes, but would they take any notice if I said it was too dangerous?"

He said he was not told that Mr Lloyd and his team were in southern Iraq but, if he had known, would have stressed the danger involved and advised him to leave the area.

"The sad thing about this tragedy is that it was not a unique tragedy - it would be repeated time and time again and there would be further deaths," he said.

The inquest was adjourned until Tuesday. The Coroner has said he will record his verdict on Friday.

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