Journalist's body flown home

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The Independent Online

The body of Sunday Mirror defence correspondent Rupert Hamer, the first British journalist to be killed in Afghanistan, returned to the UK yesterday.

He was repatriated on a flight with the first soldier to die this year in the conflict, Private Robert Hayes, 19. Their military flight landed at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire.

Hamer, 39, and photographer Phil Coburn, 43, were caught up in an explosion on Saturday while embedded with US Marines. Coburn suffered serious injuries.

As a non-military person, Mr Hamer did not receive the same ceremony at Lyneham given to returning soldiers, the Ministry of Defence said.

His family were not at the base today, a spokesman added.

The father of three's body was taken, like those of the soldiers, to Oxford's John Ratcliffe Hospital for a post-mortem examination.

Mr Coburn was due to be brought back today on a separate medical flight for treatment at Birmingham's Selly Oak Hospital. He remains in a serious but stable condition.

The pair fell victim to an improved explosive device (IED). Tributes have flooded in for Mr Hamer, who died of his wounds at the scene north west of Nawa in Helmand province. A US marine and five others were seriously injured in the explosion.

Mr Hamer was described as "dedicated and really, really valued" by his friend and colleague Chris Hughes, the Daily Mirror's security correspondent.

This afternoon the body of Private Robert Hayes, 19, of 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment, was driven through the streets of Wootton Bassett close to the base.

Hundreds lined the high street in icy weather to pay tribute to the keen sportsman, from Burwell, Cambridgeshire.