Shot BBC producer 'was pressurised'

A BBC producer who was shot dead in Somalia thought she had “no choice” but to go to the dangerous country if she wanted to keep her job at the corporation, an inquest has heard today.

Russell Claydon

A BBC producer who was shot dead in Somalia thought she had “no choice” but to go to the dangerous country if she wanted to keep her job at the corporation, an inquest has heard.

Kate Peyton was under pressure to display more commitment to her BBC bosses just before they offered her an assignment in the “lawless” African country, it was claimed.

The family of the 39-year-old of Beyton, near Bury St Edmunds, made the comments at an inquest into her death which began at Ipswich Crown Court today.

Ms Peyton, who had worked for the BBC since 1993, was gunned down by a bullet of a 9mm weapon shot by a terrorist outside the front of a hotel in Mogadishu on February 9, 2005.

The inquest also heard how she was not wearing a bullet-proof vest on the day of the shooting, the first of her planned 10-day assignment in Somalia to make reports on the country for television and radio.

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Rebecca Peyton was due to fly out and visit her sister in Johannesburg, where she was based, before Kate accepted the assignment to Mogadishu.

She told the court her sister's contract with the BBC was due to expire and she had been told by bosses there were “doubts about her commitment to the job”.

Her sister had told her about her anxieties surrounding her contract situation, which was heightened by her personal circumstances. She was supporting her partner Roger Koy, who she was due to marry, and his daughter as he looked for work.

She said: “It was very clear to me there was enormous pressure.”

She added: “In foreign journalism you can earn a lot of points by going to a dangerous place.”

Angela Peyton told the court her daughter, who had previously turned down a trip to Iraq because of the dangers, felt the Somalia assignment had to be accepted if she was to save her career at the BBC.

“I am just horrified that someone like her felt so pressurised at the time that she could not say no, because in theory anybody at the BBC can refuse to go to dangerous places. It is a marvellous theory, but in practice I do not think it always works.”

The inquest heard how the tragedy unfolded on Ms Peyton's first day in the Somali capital on February 9, 2005 when she and a fellow journalist, Peter Greste, were visiting government officials to seek out potential stories.

They had been accompanied to the Sahafi Hotel by eight local armed bodyguards, provided by another hotel, but could not park their vehicle in the courtyard due to it being full.

Their impromptu visit to meet delegations of the transitional federal government lasted less than 15 minutes before a bullet struck Ms Peyton in the back, shortly after 2pm, as she went to get into their vehicle outside the front of the hotel.

She was driven straight to Medina Hospital where surgeons carried out a blood transfusion in an effort to save her but she later died. Mr Greste was unhurt in the incident.

Detective Chief Inspector David Skevington, who led a non-criminal investigation into her death for the coroner, said neither Ms Peyton nor Mr Greste had been wearing protective vests at the time of the incident.

He said: “The BBC will say that flak jackets were taken but were not normally worn because it was thought that it would draw unnecessary attention and invite attack.

“Katherine Peyton was not wearing a flak jacket at the time of her death. It is accepted that lightweight flak jackets could have been worn under normal clothing.

“However, the main threat of firearms in Mogadishu is the AK47 or a larger weapon and a covert jacket would not have protected Katherine Peyton should this weapon have been used.”

It was believed the gunman, identified as Mohammed Salad Hashi Tafey by the journalists' driver, was part of a radical Islamic group that were linked with the killings of westerners in Somalia and had been outside the hotel to target transitional government officials.

The vehicle they were in drove off at high speed and was later recovered but the attackers had fled.

Mr Greste, who was working as a freelance journalist, also gave evidence yesterday saying he had consulted a number of experts on the situation in Somali before undertaking the assignment and believed the threat was “manageable” to foreign journalists.

The inquest continues.