Are the killers of Terry Lloyd getting away with his murder?

John Simpson, the veteran TV reporter who was himself hit by 'friendly fire', on the shooting of his ITN colleague by US troops

It is highly unlikely that the US soldiers who killed the ITN correspondent Terry Lloyd and two members of his team during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 will be brought to justice.

Lloyd was injured in crossfire between Iraqi troops and American tanks outside Basra. He was picked up by a makeshift ambulance. As it drove away, the Americans fired on it and Lloyd was killed. His translator, Hussein Osman, and his cameraman, Fred Nerac, whose body has never been found, were also killed.

At last week's inquest on Lloyd's death, there was a verdict of unlawful killing. His daughter, Chelsey, said his death amounted to murder; his widow, Lynn, called it a war crime. The coroner will ask the Attorney-General to press charges.

Yet even if the British government were prepared to put pressure on the Bush administration, it would almost certainly come to nothing. American soldiers who kill civilians through carelessness or brutality in battle receive a remarkable degree of protection from the US authorities. There is little investigation, and a soldier can usually clear himself by saying he opened fire because he believed his life was in danger.

Recently, allegations that US soldiers have massacred Iraqi civilians have been taken more seriously, but there has been no action over civilian killings during the invasion itself.

Lloyd was an excellent and brave journalist who chose to work independently of the US and British forces in Iraq. Both the Pentagon and the Ministry of Defence wanted reporters to be "embedded" with their forces during the invasion. Embedded journalists were subject to censorship, and it was hard for them to get an independent view of what was going on.

The Pentagon and the MoD disapproved of the so-called unilaterals like Lloyd. By the time this atmosphere of disapproval has filtered down to the front-line soldiers, it can occasionally seem like a licence to kill.

Some days earlier, in northern Iraq, my television team and I were bombed by a US navy plane while we were with a group of US and Kurdish special forces. Eighteen people, all Kurds, died. One of those killed was my translator.

The plane was flying at a height of only 300 metres. The pilot must have seen that many of the 20 vehicles below were US Humvees, and that every vehicle carried the big orange markings which showed they were from the Coalition. Even so, he dropped a 1,000lb bomb on us.

Later, I had an off-the-record meeting with the pilot's overall commander. He was apologetic. But it was clear that the pilot responsible had only been questioned once, and that he had not been disciplined.

I investigated the possibilities of taking legal action on behalf of the 18 people who had been killed. But the lawyer I consulted told me not to waste my time and money.

The two cases are very different. We were bombed by accident. Lloyd and his colleagues were killed deliberately. To have fired on them, and to have targeted an ambulance, were contraventions of the Geneva Convention.

But the response of the US authorities was the same in both incidents. They showed their armed forces that criminal brutality and criminal carelessness would not be punished.

Since the First World War, every war in which the Americans have fought has been marked by unnecessary civilian deaths and wholly avoidable "friendly fire" incidents. Now, it seems, there may be a new distinguishing feature of American wars: the killing of journalists.

John Simpson is the BBC's world affairs editor. He is currently reporting on the trial of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad

News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up