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Tributes to Norfolk born journalist

PUBLISHED: 14:58 11 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:16 30 June 2010

Prime Minister Gordon Brown led the tributes to a Norfolk-born journalist who was killed in Afghanistan.

Described as a “fine, fearless and skilled writer”, Rupert Hamer, who began his career at the Eastern Daily Press in the late 1980s, was working as the Sunday Mirror's defence correspondent when he died following a blast north-west of Nawa.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown led the tributes to a Norfolk-born journalist who was killed in Afghanistan.

Described as a “fine, fearless and skilled writer”, Rupert Hamer, who began his career at the Eastern Daily Press in the late 1980s, was working as the Sunday Mirror's defence correspondent when he died following a blast north-west of Nawa.

It is thought he is the first British journalist to be killed in Afghanistan.

The 39-year-old father of three young children, who lived in London, was embedded with US marines when they were caught in the explosion while on patrol on Saturday, which also injured the newspaper's photographer Phil Coburn and killed a US marine.

Mr Hamer, who went to Town Close School, in Norwich, before boarding at Gresham's School, regularly returned to Norfolk, where members of his family, including his father Nick, whom he was very close to, still live.

Mr Brown said: “I was deeply saddened by this tragic news and my heartfelt thoughts and sympathies are with the families, friends and colleagues of Rupert and Philip.

“Their courage, skill and dedication to reporting from the frontline was incredibly important and ensured that the world could see and read about our heroic troops.

“Their professionalism and commitment to our forces will not be forgotten.”

Paul Durrant, the EDP's former assistant editor, said: “I remember Rupert as a fresh-faced newsdesk assistant at the EDP, running errands and getting coffees, but always passionate about newspaper journalism, and always determined to succeed in his dream of becoming a reporter because he understood how important it is to tell people objectively and authoritatively what's going on in the world.

“He was a genuine enthusiast for his trade and in many ways grew up professionally by learning those enduring values at the EDP in Norfolk. His commitment to telling it how it is, without fear or favour, shone through and he will be greatly missed by those of us who worked with him.”

Former EDP reporter Simon Stevens, who worked with Mr Hamer at the paper's Thetford office, said: “He was a very good writer and very well read. He was an extremely likeable person with an infectious sense of humour.”

Mr Hamer, who had been in Afghanistan since New Year's Eve, had been the Sunday Mirror's defence correspondent since 2004 and had covered the armed forces across the Middle East and central Asia, the Oman, Bahrain, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nicknamed “Corporal Hamer”, his personality and writing skills helped him bring back stories from some of the most dangerous parts of the world.

One of Mr Hamer's last assignments was organising a special Christmas edition of the paper with messages from loved ones, which was sent to troops in Afghanistan three weeks ago.

Mr Hamer started at the EDP from school in 1988 and worked as a newsdesk assistant before completing the in house training scheme.

He put his career on hold while he attended Leeds University before returning to journalism at the Bournemouth Evening Echo, where he met his wife Helen, a fellow reporter.

After moving to London in 1997, Mr Hamer shifted for the INS news agency before landing a full-time post at the Sunday Mirror.

Tina Weaver, Sunday Mirror editor, said: “He was a fine, fearless, and skilled writer who joined the paper 12 years ago.

“Affectionately known as Corporal Hamer in the office, he was a gregarious figure, a wonderful friend who was hugely popular with his colleagues.”

Mr Hamer is survived by two brothers, one of whom lives in Australia and two sisters as well as his father, who is believed to be in London with Mrs Hamer and the children, who are aged six, five and 19 months.

Defence secretary Bob Ainsworth said: “Both Rupert Hamer and Phil Coburn accompanied me on my most recent trip to Afghanistan.

“I got to know them well and I was impressed by their hard work and professionalism.

“My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the families, friends and colleagues of both men at this extremely distressing time.”

Conservative Party leader David Cameron said last night: “British journalists regularly risk their own safety to report on the war in Afghanistan.

“Their job is a crucial one and their bravery is to be admired.

“My condolences go to Rupert's family - especially his wife Helen and their three young children.

“I'd also like to wish Philip Coburn who was badly injured alongside Rupert a speedy recovery.

If you would like to pay tribute to Mr Hamer, email newsdesk@archant.co.uk.


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