Nothing could have prevented the death of an experienced war reporter in a bomb blast in Afghanistan, a coroner ruled today.
Sunday Mirror defence correspondent Rupert Hamer was travelling in a US Marine Corps armoured personnel carrier at the back of a resupply convoy when it was caught in the explosion on January 9 2010.
An inquest in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, heard that he died despite wearing full standard issue body armour.
A US Marine was also killed and Sunday Mirror photographer Philip Coburn, who was sitting next to Mr Hamer, was seriously injured.
Recording a verdict of unlawful killing, David Ridley, Wiltshire and Swindon Coroner, said: "No matter how much training was given, I don't think it would have changed the outcome.
"This was not an act of war. It was a cold-blooded killing. The purpose of the device was to maim and kill American service personnel.
"Sadly the mine killed a member of the Marines but also wounded Mr Coburn and took Rupert's life."
The court heard that the 100lb improvised explosive device (IED) went off underneath the vehicle in the Nawa area of Afghanistan. It was detonated by watching Taliban insurgents.
Mr Hamer, 39, and Mr Coburn, 44, were travelling in a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle at the time.
Mr Hamer had been defence correspondent for the Sunday Mirror since 2004 and was on his sixth assignment in Afghanistan.
Mr Coburn told the hearing at Trowbridge Town Hall that both he and Mr Hamer had been glad to be getting out on to the front lines after several days of inactivity since arriving in the country on New Year's Eve 2009.
He said they felt safe in the MRAP because it was so much better than the equipment used by British forces in the war zone.
"It was day nine and we felt we hadn't started working yet," he said.
"We were going to spend around three weeks going between patrol bases. At the time we were in probably the safest vehicle we had ever been in in Afghanistan. We felt safe as houses on that run."
The vehicle carrying the pair was at the rear of a six-strong convoy which left the Fort Geronimo forward operating base at 11am. They made one supply drop without incident but were targeted as they travelled to a second outpost.
Mr Coburn told the hearing that he remembered little of the actual blast.
"I remember coming to, I couldn't see. I thought 'Oh my God, not us, not us'. I started calling out for help and the Marines said they had to secure the area first."
The blast did not penetrate the armour of the MRAP but the force of the explosion was enough to kill Mr Hamer instantly.
Mr Coburn, who suffered serious leg injuries in the blast, told the inquest that he had been told later that the mine had been controlled by a wire and that "someone was watching" to detonate it, possibly because they thought that the rearmost vehicle held the patrol commander, which it did not.
Days later, US Marines killed four Taliban in the area, whom they believed were behind the attack.
Eugene Duffy, group managing editor of Mirror Group Newspapers, said that since the attack the company had made it official policy for journalists going to war zones to undergo five-day hostile environment training courses. Mr Hamer was believed to have completed such a course.
"Rupert's death was a terrible shock to his colleagues on the Mirror and across Fleet Street," he said.
"It is now a requirement that a safety course has taken place and a minimum standard of fitness is also required."
Mr Hamer was married with three children and lived in London. A keen fly-fisherman, he was born and raised in East Anglia, working for the Eastern Daily Press and the Bournemouth Evening Echo before joining the Sunday Mirror in 1997.
His widow, Helen, said after the inquest that she hoped the newspaper would learn lessons from his death, despite the coroner ruling that little could have been done to prevent it.
"The Mirror's attitude to its journalists going into battle areas before he died was very lax," she said.
"I hope they tighten up their procedures to minimise the dangers."Reuse content