Briton killed in Baghdad wanted to be a war reporter

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Richard Wild, the British journalist shot dead in Baghdad on Saturday was a former soldier and picture researcher for ITN who aspired to become a war correspondent.

Mr Wild, 24, a freelance cameraman who had arrived from London two weeks ago, was believed to have been researching a story on Iraq's vandalised natural history museum when he was killed. He was shot at close range.

His death brings to 16 the number of journalists or their assistants who have died in Iraq since the war began on 20 March.

During the conflict, he distributed war footage to ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 from ITN's London studios. Stewart Purvis, chief executive of ITN, said: "We are shocked and saddened to hear of the reported death. In the six months that Richard worked at ITN, he was regarded as a dedicated and popular member of the newsroom team, particularly as he tracked all the material coming into ITN during the Iraq war."

A spokeswoman for the broadcaster said he had not been working for ITN when he died. She added that the news was particularly sad in the light of the deaths of two former ITN journalists, Gaby Rado, and Terry Lloyd, who were part of an 80-strong ITN team during the second Gulf crisis.

Mr Wild joined the pool of freelances who went to Iraq with the hope of breaking into reporting by filming the aftermath of attacks on Americans.

Friends describe him as a tall man with close-cropped blond hair, a former soldier who still looked the part. At the time of his death, he was wearing a white dress shirt and khaki trousers, leading to speculation that his killer might have mistaken him for a military man.

His father, Robin Wild, 62, thought his son's looks could have been taken for American and added that he had been "laid back" when it came to his personal security.

Michael Burke, 45, an independent British TV producer who identified the body on Saturday, said Mr Wild had wanted to be on the front line of news coverage. "He wanted to do war reporting. He didn't want to sit in the studio. He was a very nice kid."

Mr Burke added that he had not been carrying any camera equipment that would have explicitly branded him a journalist when he was shot.

He was unsure about security, said Mr Burke, and had asked him whether he needed to wear the standard body-armour vest with ceramic plates. Mr Burke had told him to wear the armour and warned him not to walk around the streets of Baghdad.

Harry Smith, an ITN correspondent in Baghdad, said he last saw Mr Wild on Thursday, when he visited the television studios in the Palestine Hotel with some footage of Iraqis who had lost a family member during a confrontation with the Americans.