The Coroner’s Court in Westminster, UK, carrying out an inquest into the death of photographer Tim Hetherington concluded that his death was “unlawful,” The Independent reports. The photojournalist and documentary-film maker died April 20, 2011 in a mortar attack in Misrata, Libya, where he was covering fighting between forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and rebel fighters. Photojournalist Chris Hondros was also killed in the attack.
The court heard a written statement from Istanbul-based photographer Guy Martin, one of two photographers who were wounded by shrapnel in the same incident. Testimony was also provided by New York Times journalist CJ Chivers, who toured the scene of the attack later, and concluded the mortars which had struck the building in which the photographers were killed had been fired by Qaddafi loyalists. In giving her verdict of “unlawful killing,” deputy Westminster coroner Dr. Shirley Radcliffe said of Hetherington, “He was not a soldier, he was an innocent photographer.” It’s unclear if the ruling means Hetherington and the other civilians had been targeted by Qaddafi loyalists.
Martin’s written statement, in which he described the “catastrophic” violence the band of photographers had witnessed that morning, as well as his last glimpse of Hondros, makes chilling reading for anyone who knew the two slain photographers.
Martin stated, The Independant reports, that after seeing “hand-to-hand fighting” and “incoming mortar fire coming from miles away, “ the photographers returned to their base and discussed what to do next. According to Martin, Hetherington argued that they should continue to follow rebel fighters. Martin said that shortly after he was struck, he lost consciousness, and only learned of the deaths of his colleagues a week later, when he was trying to flee Libya.
In her verdict, Radcliffe also said the cause of Hetherington’s death was “massive hemorrhage.”
After Hetherington’s death, his friend and collaborator, writer Sebastian Junger, said Hetherington could have survived his injuries if someone on the ground had administered basic lifesaving techniques. Junger has established Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues (RISC) to provide free first-aid training to journalists covering war zones.
Outside the court after yesterday’s inquest, Judith Hetherington, the photographer’s mother, broke down in tears while speaking to reporters. “”He was a wonderful humanitarian,” she said.
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