Simon Cumbers’s killer executed in Saudi Arabia

Irish journalist’s murderer among 47 men convicted of terrorism put to death by state

 

Al-Qaeda gunman Adel al-Dhubaiti, who murdered Irish cameraman Simon Cumbers and wounded BBC defence correspondent Frank Gardner in 2004, was executed in Saudi Arabia yesterday alongside 46 other men convicted of terrorism, including high-profile Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

In June 2004 the journalists were filming in a suburb of Riyadh, the Saudi capital, working on a story about al-Qaeda when the shooting took place. Cumbers (36) was killed outright while Gardner survived six bullets and has been confined to a wheelchair after a lengthy recovery.

The two men had just finish filming when a car pulled up and a young man in a thobe (caftan) got out, drew a gun from his pocket and began shooting. Cumbers was killed instantly, and the Saudi minders accompanying them on their mission fled.

Born and raised in Navan, Co Meath, Cumbers was educated at St Patrick’s Classical School where he edited the school magazine and served as a broadcaster with a pirate radio. He wrote features for the Drogheda Independent and the Ipswich Evening Star before becoming chief reporter for Dublin’s Capitol Radio.

In 1990 he moved to the UK and shifted from newspaper and radio assignments in Ireland to producing for ITN and Channel Four Daily, where he found a vocation behind and in front of the camera.

He trained as a cameraman and worked as a freelancer, taking assignments in far-flung places. He filmed and edited reports from the Amazon rain forest, Africa, Indonesia, Turkey, India and the Arctic Circle, covering political upheavals as well as natural disasters.

Cumbers was on the job after the sinking of the Russian submarine, the Kursk, in August 2000, was in Bethlehem at Christmas during the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, and also at the Madrid train bombings in March 2004.

Colleagues remarked on his professionalism, dedication to deadlines, constant good humour and Irish tendency to chat.

While he was highly successful and greatly in demand, foreign freelance work can often be difficult and dangerous, particularly for photojournalists and television cameramen and women who put themselves in the line of fire to catch the action. The flow of assignments freelancers receive and their reputations depend on this.

One of Cumbers’s friends and fellow reporters, John Schofield, lost his life while on assignment for the BBC in Croatia in August 1995.

Cumbers and his wife Louise Bevan, a BBC journalist, ran their own news and production company, Locum Productions. In 2005, Irish Aid, in co-operation with Bevan and the Cumbers family, created the Cumbers Media Fund with the aim of promoting good -quality coverage of development issues in the Irish media.

Al-Dhubaiti was sentenced to death in November 2014. The executions, carried out by swordsmen and firing squads, took place in a dozen locations around the kingdom, which has been determined to demonstrate its commitment to countering the threat of al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

Forty-three of those executed were Sunnis convicted of al-Qaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia, while four were Shias convicted of sedition.

Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has threatened to retaliate against Saudi Arabia for executing its operatives. This was the largest Saudi mass execution in recent decades.