Former regional press colleagues have been paying tribute to Sunday Mirror defence correspondent Rupert Hamer who has become the first British journalist to be killed in the war in Afghanistan.
The Norwich-born father-of-three began his career on his local paper, the Eastern Daily Press, in the 1980s.
Paul Durrant, the EDP’s former assistant editor, said today: “I remember Rupert as a fresh-faced, sometimes shy teenager who started as a newsdesk assistant at the EDP, running errands and getting coffee, but he always impressed us with a quiet, steely determination to pursue the career he loved.
“He learnt his trade in Norfolk and he never forgot those values when he moved on to Fleet Street. I’m proud to have played a part in his formative years.”
Former EDP reporter Simon Stevens, who worked with Mr Hamer at the paper’s Thetford office, added: “He was a very good writer and very well read. He was an extremely likeable person with an infectious sense of humour.”
And Archant communications manager, Keith Morris, who worked with Rupert at the King’s Lynn office, said: “I remember Rupert as a popular, confident and knowledgeable trainee who was completely focused on a career in newspapers.”
Mr Hamer also worked for the Daily Echo in Bournemouth in the 1990s before joining the Sunday Mirror in 1997.
The 39-year-old, who lived in London, was embedded with US marines when they were caught in an explosion on Saturday which also killed a US marine and injured Sunday Mirror photographer Phil Coburn.
Mr Hamer, who had been in Afghanistan since New Year’s Eve, had been the Sunday Mirror’s defence correspondent since 2004 and had covered the armed forces across the Middle East and central Asia, the Oman, Bahrain, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sunday Mirror editor Tina Weaver said: “Rupert believed that the only place to report a war was from the front line, and as our defence correspondent he wanted to be embedded with the US marines at the start of their vital surge into Southern Afghanistan.
“He left on New Year’s Eve with photographer Phil Coburn, determined to be there from the start.
“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.
“One of his last acts was to organise a special Christmas newspaper produced solely for the troops packed with messages from loved ones which was flown out by the RAF three weeks ago.
“He was a fine, fearless, and skilled writer who joined the paper 12 years ago. Affectionately known as Corporal Hamer in the office, he was a gregarious figure, a wonderful friend who was hugely popular with his colleagues.”
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “I was deeply saddened by this tragic news and my heartfelt thoughts and sympathies are with the families, friends and colleagues of Rupert and Philip.
“Their courage, skill and dedication to reporting from the front line was incredibly important and ensured that the world could see and read about our heroic troops. Their professionalism and commitment to our forces will not be forgotten.”
biter (11/01/2010 12:15:53)
One of the most likeable journalists I’ve ever met.