Daughter's quest for justice over 'unlawful killing' of war reporter

Mark Austin

Former ITV News presenter

Terry Lloyd's daughter Chelsey and ITV News presenter Mark Austin Credit: ITN

It was a day we had planned and prepared for. It was a day we had looked forward to with nervousness, fear and yet also excitement.

But, in the event, it was the single most dreadful day of my career.

It was ten years ago and my ITV News crew and I were camped in the Kuwaiti desert within striking distance of the border with Iraq.

Overnight the constant clatter of helicopters overhead and the sound of distant explosions told us the invasion of Iraq had begun.

Our assignment was no ordinary one. It was our job to follow the British and American troops into Iraq and present ITV Evening News programmes from as close to the front line as possible, safety permitting.

We were ready to go. And then we made one final call to London.

It was a call that changed everything, a call that stopped us in our tracks.

Our news editor in London told us our ITV colleague and friend, war correspondent Terry Lloyd, and his team, had been involved in an ‘incident‘ near the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

Terry, cameraman Fred Nerac, and their Lebanese ‘fixer‘ Hussein Osman were missing and our newsdesk in London feared the worst.

I had spoken to Terry the previous evening. Typically he was already ahead of the game. He had crossed the border and was camping out close to an advance unit of British troops. He was exactly where he wanted to be. On the biggest story and in the right place.

“Bit of catching up to do, Austin”, he’d joked.

Now, it would be confirmed just a few hours later, he was dead.

ITN war correspondent Terry Lloyd

Terry, Fred, Hussein and another cameraman Daniel Demoustier had been travelling in separate 4x4 vehicles near Basra when they came across a pick-up truck of Iraqi troops.

During the chase that followed all three vehicles were raked with machine gun fire by American marines.

Terry had been hit twice, the second bullet in the head as he was being driven away in a makeshift ambulance. The bodies of Fred and Hussein have never been found. Daniel had somehow survived.

It was, of course, the most appalling news. Devastating for his friends and colleagues at ITV News, but for his family, wife Lynn, son Oliver, then just 11, and daughter Chelsey, 21, it was nothing short of a life-changing tragedy.

Chelsey in particular, has struggled to come to terms with what happened.

Terry Lloyd's daughter Chelsey, and wife Lynn, with ITN editor David Mannion at Terry's funeral Credit: Tim Ockenden/PA Archive/Press Association Images

And now ten years on I have accompanied her on a remarkable journey for an ITV documentary. We have retraced the last hours of her father’s life, in an attempt to understand what happened and why.

For Chelsey it is the culmination of a draining decade that has dragged her through the initial shock and subsequently all sorts of emotions: Incomprehension, anger, desire for vengeance and determination to get justice.

What happened to Terry, Fred and Hussein on the morning of March 22nd, 2003 has been the subject of claim, counter claim, several different investigations and inquiries.

In 2006, an inquest coroner decided it was “unlawful killing”.

The Lloyd family described it as a war crime, ITN called for prosecutions, but months later, prosecutors decided there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against any individuals.

So for Chelsey there are too many unanswered questions to let it rest.

“I just need to understand. I just need to know more. Ten years on I just want to know who killed my Dad and why,” she told me.

So off we went. It was a journey that was to take us to Iraq, to the very spot where Terry was killed and to the hospital where his body was taken.

And, it also took us to Norfolk, Virginia, to meet the US Marine Corps Lieutenant who gave the order to open fire on that fateful day.

The Sheraton Hotel was full of journalists ion the eve of the invasion of Iraq Credit: Reuters

Just like Terry’s, our trip began in Kuwait, at the Sheraton Hotel where hundreds of journalists were based ten years ago, waiting for war to begin.

With Chelsey and I was Daniel Demoustier, the cameraman who was driving the vehicle Terry was in and who miraculously survived the attack.

He drove us towards the Iraqi border along the same desert road they had taken.

We reached a place called Abdaly Farms, a tomato growing area close to the border where Terry’s team had hidden from Kuwaiti security forces the night before they crossed.

Chelsey looked around at the dusty fields and the rows of crops covered in white tarpaulins.

“I think I feel exactly like he would have been feeling,” she said. “I know this sounds odd but there is no other place he would have wanted to be.

“He always said there is only one thing worse than being asked to go to a war zone on a big story and that is not being asked. He knew it would be dangerous but he wanted to be there.”

British soldiers camped near the Kuwaiti border with Iraq just days before the invasion Credit: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

We followed his journey across the Iraq border and on towards Basra.

In Iraq, Chelsey’s demeanour changed. Quieter, reflective, she stared out at a country she had only ever imagined. This was Iraq, the place her father died, and it was painful.

She steeled herself for the moment almost upon her. We neared the spot on the road where the shooting happened.

We were approaching a bridge on the outskirts of Basra, and Daniel, driving now as he was driving then, took up the story.

He told Chelsey how Terry spotted a pick up truck with a mounted machine gun in the distance. It was full of Iraqi troops.

“We realised we’d gone too far. We swung the car around and gestured to Fred and Hussein behind us to do the same,” he said.

He explained how the pick-up caught up with them, the three vehicles heading south at speed. And then the firing started.

An American tank, similar to this one, started opening fire on the convoy Credit: ABACA ABACA PRESS/ABACA/Press Association Images

It came from the machine guns atop a row of American tanks at the side of the road, Daniel said. Terry’s team had unwittingly driven through the front line and was now heading back towards it, along with the pursuing Iraqis, into a killing zone.

He described the windscreen shattering, bullets ripping through the dashboard. As he took cover he noticed the passenger door open and Terry was no longer there. He never saw him again.

Daniel himself somehow got out and took cover in a gully.

Ten years later, we were standing by that same road on a cold, windswept day. It was busy with traffic, and Chelsey was struggling to take it all in.

“This is no place to die,” she said. “No place to die at all.”

Chelsey had so many questions. She wanted to know why the Americans opened fire in the first place, why they had apparently fired on a retreating ambulance. She wanted to know who did it. She wanted to know so much more.

And so it was that we headed to the United States, to Norfolk, Virginia.

For months Chelsey had been emailing US Marine Corp Lt Vince Hogan, who was commander of Red Platoon, Delta Company on the fateful day.

He had given the order to fire.

Chelsey had wanted to confront him, to ask him why. She had wanted him prosecuted. He had never really said much at all.

But eventually things changed. He agreed to talk to Chelsey, to give his side of the story. He would not speak on camera, but they met in a coffee shop in Norfolk, about four hours' drive from Washington DC. They talked for three hours about what happened and why.

Vince Hogan, a softly-spoken father of two, explained how the three vehicles approached at speed, how the Iraqi soldiers pulled down ski masks and picked up a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. He drew diagrams to help her understand.

The funeral of Terry Lloyd at St Nicholas Church in Cuddington, Buckinghamshire Credit: Tim Ockenden/PA Archive/Press Association Images

He said he didn’t at first see the TV markings on the ITN vehicles and that he had no choice but to give the order to open fire.

Crucially, he insisted he had no knowledge of any of his men firing on the makeshift ambulance that had come in to pick up Terry. No knowledge of the bullet that killed him.

Chelsey listened intently to every word. She told him she understood why he had done what he did .

She thanked him. This, the very man she had wanted put on trial for war crimes. Then she hugged him as he left.

As Chelsey and I walked from the coffee shop, I asked her whether the meeting had changed things for her .

“He was a good man, a nice man,” she said. “And I think I know why he did what he did.”

She still doesn’t know exactly who killed her Dad. But ten years on she has some answers, she has some peace and she has a little more understanding.

And that, for Chelsey, is something.

You can watch Chelsey and Mark's documentary Who Killed My Dad? The Death of Terry Lloyd on the ITV Player.