'Angel of Mostar' accepts newspaper damages

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The Independent Online

An aid worker who became known as the "Angel of Mostar" for her work in Bosnia accepted substantial libel damages over newspaper claims that she recklessly endangered the lives of volunteers. Sally Becker said the articles in the Daily Mail, which described her as publicity-seeking, sought to undermine her achievements, which included evacuating wounded children from the besieged town in 1993.

The newspaper claimed that six volunteers were suing her over an aid mission in July 1998 to Bajram Curri, in northern Albania, on the Kosovo border. In August 1998, the newspaper alleged that Ms Becker had taken the convoy of aid vehicles with 27 volunteers on a dangerous mountain road contrary to the advice of the local police.

It also alleged that when the convoy arrived at the Kosovo border it was turned away because Ms Becker had not obtained the necessary visas.

At the High Court in London yesterday, her solicitor-advocate, David Price, said the newspaper's publishers, Associated Newspapers, accepted that Ms Becker had not been sued for negligence by any of her volunteers on the convoy. The court heard that the local police had advised taking that road and provided an escort. The volunteers were aware of the risks and had signed forms to acknowledge that.

The newspaper also accepted that Ms Becker was aware the visas to Kosovo had been refused before the convoy left England and she had made alternative arrangements to deliver aid to northern Albania.

It also accepted that Ms Becker relied on the media to draw attention to the plight of children in the Balkans and that her missions had delivered aid and medical treatment over the years where none was available.

The newspaper offered its "sincere apologies" and agreed to pay Ms Becker a substantial, undisclosed sum in damages, plus her legal costs.