Marie Colvin: Award-winning foreign correspondent hailed for her courage and compassion


At a ceremony at St Bride's Church in Fleet Street in 2010, in honour of reporters killed in war zones, Marie Colvin, the long-serving Sunday Times foreign correspondent, delivered a moving address. "We can and do make a difference in exposing the horrors of war and especially the atrocities that befall civilians," she said, but added: "We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story. What is bravery and what is bravado?"

Those who worked alongside her affirm that she was demonstrably brave but in no sense reckless. But yesterday the American-born reporter was added to the roll of those who have died for the sake of the story when she and a photographer were killed by a rocket when trying to escape from a house in Homs, Syria, that was being used as a press centre for the rebels.

The previous day she had sent despatches by satellite telephone to the BBC, ITN and the news channel CNN. She reported: "There is just shells, rockets and tank fire pouring into civilian areas of this city and it is just unrelenting." Her reports accompanied harrowing footage of a baby killed in the shelling. She said it was important that such images should be broadcast to show the world what was happening in the city. "Why is no one stopping this murder?" she asked.

The question why journalists such as she put themselves in harm's way for the sake of exposing violence, hardship and injustice was one that she asked herself throughout her professional career. In 2001 she visited the Tamil-held area of Sri Lanka – the first Western journalist to do so for six years – and lost her sight in her left eye when it was struck by shrapnel from a grenade. (Her black eye patch subsequently became her badge of identity.)

The same week she wrote a 3000-word article for The Sunday Times describing the incident and the operation in a New York hospital to save her eyesight. In it she said she had been told she was foolish to court such dangers, and concluded: "So, was I stupid? Stupid I would feel writing a column about the dinner party I went to last night. Equally, I'd rather be in that middle ground between a desk job and getting shot, no offence to desk jobs. For my part, the next war I cover, I'll be more awed than ever by the quiet bravery of civilians who endure far more than I ever will. They must stay where they are; I can come home to London."

In fact she had the reputation of staying in a zone of conflict longer than most of the "visiting firemen" who pay brief visits and leave as soon as the interest of their news desks begins to fade, even if the core situation remains unresolved. It was an important reason why her reports were notable for their insights and local knowledge.

In 1999, reporting the plight of refugees in East Timor, she insistedon staying until their evacuation was assured, although some aid officials had wanted to pull out earlier. Notlong before her assignment to Syria she spent many weeks in Libya, and was one of the last journalists to interview Colonel Gaddafi.

The daughter of a schoolteacher, Marie Colvin was born in Oyster Bay, Long Island, in 1957 and educated at the local high school. She worked in Paris for United Press International before joining the Sunday Times in 1986 as its Middle East correspondent. Among stories she covered were the war between Iran and Iraq, the conflict in Yemen and the two Gulf wars.

Broadening her area of operations, she reported on the wars in Indonesia, Kosovo and Chechnya, for which she won one of the several awards she attracted during her career. This one was for her description of how she escaped from approaching Russian troops.The only route open to her was a path across mountains, leading to a remote and virtually inaccessible spot from where, after four days, she was rescued by an American helicopter. The British Press Awards judges commented: "Her escape from Chechnya was a superb adventure, grippingly told. It was one of the great adventure stories of all time."

Other awards came from the Foreign Press Association and the International Women's Media Foundation (for courage). In 2009 she was honoured by the trustees of the Martha Gellhorn Prize for her "distinguished work over many years in the service of journalism". This gave her particular pleasure as Gellhorn, who reported the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, was one of her heroines and an influential role model.

Colvin's peripatetic profession was not conducive to a stable private life and her three marriages ended unhappily. Her second husband was the journalist and author Patrick Bishop and her third Juan Carlos Gumucio, a Bolivian reporter who committed suicide in 2002. One of the few outside interests she made time for was sailing, at which she became highly proficient.

Her final report, in the Sunday Times four days ago, was characteristic in its combination of resourcefulness and compassion: "I entered Homs on a smugglers' route, which I promised not to reveal, climbing over walls in the dark and slipping into muddy trenches... The building I was staying in lost its upper floor to a rocket last Wednesday... No shops are open, so families are sharing what they have with relatives and neighbours. Many of the dead and injured are those who risked foraging for food.... The scale of human tragedy in the city is immense. The inhabitants are living in terror.... On the lips of everyone was the question: 'Why have we been abandoned by the world?'"

Michael Leapman

Marie Colvin, journalist: born Oyster Bay, Nassau County, New York 1957; married firstly (marriage dissolved), secondly Patrick Bishop (marriage dissolved), thirdly Juan Carlos Gumucio (died 2002); died Homs, Syria 22 February 2012.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice