Inquest is told Lloyd was “unlawfully killed” by US forces

The coroner hearing the inquest into the death of ITN journalist Terry Lloyd was asked this week to find that the reporter was unlawfully killed by American forces. Anthony Hudson, representing the Lloyd family, told Oxfordshire assistant deputy coroner Andrew Walker that he can be "satisfied" on the evidence that whoever opened fire on Lloyd did so with the intention of "killing him or causing really serious injury".

Lloyd, 50, died on 22 March 2003 in southern Iraq after his four-man team got caught in the crossfire between American and Iraqi forces. Belgian cameraman Daniel Demoustier survived, and told the coroner of how "all hell broke loose" on the road to Basra. French cameraman Fred Nerac is still officially classed as missing.

Footage of the aftermath of the attack, filmed by a cameraman attached to the American unit said to have fired on Lloyd, was shown in public for the first time at the inquest. The footage showed American soldiers inspecting the smouldering wreckage of Lloyd and Demoustier's 4×4. It was released to the Royal Military Police by American authorities some months after the incident.

The film — which a forensic expert said may have been cut by 15 minutes at the beginning — also shows American soldiers firing on a minibus of Iraqis approaching the scene. Hudson told the coroner that this showed American forces were willing to open fire on civilians and were not prevented from doing so by their commanders. The inquest has heard how Lloyd and his team had crossed from the Kuwaiti border to travel independently of coalition forces and interview civilians.

They found themselves caught up in fighting between Iraqi and American troops near the Shatt Al Basra bridge. According to Demoustier, the ITN team had seen the American tanks lined up near the bridge, but thought they were British forces guarding the road. He said they thought they were advancing towards Basra in the wake of coalition forces, and only realised they were on the frontline when they spotted Iraqi soldiers approaching them across the bridge.

The inquest heard from witnesses who said interpreter Hussein Osman and Nerac were stopped and transferred from their marked TV car to a pick-up truck travelling as part of a convoy escorting the Basra Ba'ath Party leader — named only as Ayub by witnesses. Major Kay Roberts of the Royal Military Police told the coroner that a witness watching from the Basra side of the bridge told her that as Lloyd's vehicle moved off, the pick-up truck opened fire on it.

Ballistics expert Dr Thomas Warlow confirmed that Lloyd was first hit by an Iraqi bullet fired from a mounted machine gun on the pick-up truck, which he could have survived with rapid medical treatment. But he was then hit in the head by an American bullet as he lay in an ambulance. This killed him outright.

Major Roberts said witnesses told her the pick-up truck was shot at and exploded. Ballistics experts said that most of the firing after this point would have come from the American tanks. Major Roberts added that although forensic experts never found Nerac's remains, if witnesses are to be believed about his transferral to the truck, he was "unlikely to have survived". Osman's body was recovered.

Demoustier told the inquest that he "could not believe" American forces had fired at him. The 44-year-old told the coroner: "Most of the bullets were definitely coming from the American tanks. I could see the sand going up all around me all the time. I tried to get up and put my hands in the air facing the US tanks because I couldn't imagine that they couldn't see I was driving a clearly marked Western Kuwaiti rented four-wheel-drive with TV signs all over it."

"These guys have high-powered binoculars and can see every detail from hundreds of yards away. I couldn't believe they were shooting at me."

The coroner adjourned the inquest until Friday when he was expected to deliver his verdict.

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