Sunday Mirror reporter Rupert Hamer was described as “fine, fearless and dedicated” in a page one Daily Mirror tribute to the “death of a Mirrorman”.
In a personal tribute, Daily Mirror security correspondent Chris Hughes said: “It is hard to imagine the death of any other journalist leaving a bigger gap in the office than that of Rupert Hamer.” He is the first British journalist to be killed covering the current conflict in Afghanistan.
Hamer, a 39 year-old father of three, was starting a month-long embed mission with photographer Phil Coburn and a contingent of US marines when the vehicle they were travelling in along a rural road hit an improvised explosive device.
Hamer and a US marine were killed and Coburn, 42, was seriously injured.
Coburn is due to be flown to Birmingham’s Selly Oak hospital today. Although having suffered serious leg injuries, the Mirror today reports that Coburn is expected to pull through.
Hughes writes today that Hamer “never forgot that his stories were about real people and was painstakingly sensitive to the fact that they would read the articles”.
Hughes reveals that yesterday, after the news broke that Hamer had been killed, “tabloid and broadsheet journalists called from all over the world to express their shock and sadness over Rupert’s death”.
Hamer began his journalism career straight from school, joining the Eastern Daily Press as a runner – the Mirror reports. After training as a journalist on the job he took some time out to study for a degree in politics at Leeds University before joining the Evening Echo in Dorset where he worked for three years.
He moved to London in 1997 without a job to go to, doing shifts at a news agency before landing a staff position at the Sunday Mirror.
Sunday Mirror editor Tina Weaver said: “Rupert was a fine, fearless and skilled writer who joined the paper 12 years ago.
“He believed the only place to report a war was from the frontline. As our defence correspondent he wanted to be embedded with US marines at the start of their vital surge into Afghanistan.
“He left on New Year’s Eve with Phil. He was a seasoned, highly regarded and brave journalist who had reported from both Iraq and Afghanistan on many occasions.
“It was his fifth trip to Afghanistan, and he had forged friendships with a number of the soldiers serving out there.
“Affectionately known as Corporal Hamer in the office, he was a gregarious figure, a a wonderful friend who was hugely popular with his colleagues. Above all he was devoted to his wife Helen and their children.
“Our thoughts and condolences are with Helen, his father Nick, who he was so close to, and the children he was so proud of.”
Sun political editor Tom Newton Dunn added his tribute to Hamer today. Newton Dunn was a long standing rival of Hamer during his years as defence correspondent at the Daily Mirror and The Sun.
Newton Dunn writes today: “I used to open Rupert’s paper every Sunday morning and look for his name with a feeling of mild depression.
“As both his comrade and rival for ten years, I knew he’d have a great story. Few worked harder or went further to understand the forces, their needs and concerns.”
Former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Richard Kemp, writes today in the Daily Mirror: “Rupert Hamer, in his fearless pursuit of the truth about military operations and the treatment of our armed forces should take considerable credit for many improvements made to the lot of our soldiers, both back home and on the front line in Afghanistan.
“For someone who had never been in the military, Rupert’s understanding and empathy for our soldiers and for the conduct of war was remarkable.
“He was as committed to seeing our fighting men and women properly supported as he was to the pursuit of a story.
“As a nation we could not fight wars without people such as Rupert Hamer – I shining example of the best of his profession. I salute him.”