Tributes paid to slain cameraman


SAUDI ARABIA: Tributes were paid yesterday to the Irish cameraman, Simon Cumbers, who was killed by gunmen in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Christine Newman and Arthur Beesley report.

Mr Cumbers (36), was filming for the BBC when he was attacked. BBC correspondent Frank Gardner was seriously injured.

A freelance journalist and cameraman, Mr Cumbers was a native of Navan, Co Meath.

He started his career in radio in Dublin before joining ITN in the North. He also worked around the world for Associated Press Television (APTN).

He covered stories including the signing of the Belfast Agreement, the Omagh bombing and the war in Iraq.

Mr Cumbers set up his own production company, Locum Productions, in London with his wife, Louise Bevan, who works on BBC News 24 and Radio 5 Live. His parents, Brona and Bob Cumbers, and his siblings Stephen, Caitríona and Éimear, still live in the Navan area.

Ms Bevan, and two other family members went with a BBC team to Saudi Arabia yesterday to bring home his body.

One of Mr Cumbers' early jobs was as a reporter at Capital Radio, now 104FM, in Dublin. Yesterday, Patsy McGarry, who was head of news at Capital Radio in 1989/1990, said when Simon Cumbers first came to Capital News he was in news gathering. "He came to us as a freelance, a rooky reporter, and was about 20-years-old. He was very enthusiastic about journalism and was very keen to get into the area."

Former ITN chief executive Stuart Purvis said: "He was a very ambitious young journalist when he joined ITN. He had a wonderful sense of humour and was good fun to be around in the newsroom. And I think that's how he will be remembered."

Acting BBC director general Mark Byford said: "I know I speak on behalf of everyone at the BBC in offering our deepest sympathy to Simon's family."

Cathy Grieve, assignment editor of BBC News Interactive, knew him when he worked for APTN in the North in the 1990s.

She said: "He was always positive about his work and was keen to do the job to the best of his ability, regardless of how exciting or mundane that task may be."

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Cowen, said Ireland's Ambassador in Riyadh will extend every possible assistance to the family of Mr Cumbers.

"An attack such as this, on journalists in the course of their duty, is abhorrent and deeply shocking. It is, in many ways, an attack on a vital pillar of democracy," he said.

"I would also like to wish a full recovery to Mr Cumbers' colleague, Frank Gardner, who was seriously injured in yesterday's attack," Mr Cowen added.

Mr Cumbers accompanied Tony Blair on several overseas visits. Mr Blair's official spokesman said: "For those of us who came across Simon in his work, we know that he was a decent man."

UK Foreign Secretary Mr Jack Straw had met Mr Cumbers in Iran and Iraq last year. "He was a great guy in many ways, larger than life. It makes his death all the more tragic."