31/07/2008

Zimbabwe Death Was Suicide: Family

The family of an award-winning Northern Ireland photojournalist who died in Zimbabwe have said that they now accept he took his own life.

A statement issued today from the family said that having "considered the circumstances" surrounding the fatality, they believed it was indeed suicide.

"Having had the chance to examine in detail the circumstances surrounding Richard's death we are now reconciled to the fact that he did indeed take his own life," it read.

The statement continued: "We acknowledge that the amount of suffering and extreme hardship he witnessed at first hand in many harrowing situations throughout the world proved too much for him to bear."

Mr Mills and a female colleague had been working undercover for The Times newspaper in the volatile African country when tragedy struck on July 14.

The new statement comes just hours after the South African President was being urged to take action over the death.
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The National Union of Journalists (NUJ), which represents thousands of members of the press throughout the UK, revealed that it had written to Thabo Mbeki appealing for him to intervene in the neighbouring country.

The NUJ wanted him to push for a full investigation into the suicide.

His family, which includes BBC reporter Tara Mills, initially disputed the claim and said that he had sent home emails to his wife saying he was looking forward to moving into their new house in Scotland and seeing his little boy again.

The morning before he died he even signed a guardianship for the son of a friend in Zimbabwe, as the boy was going to school in Scotland.

The front-line photojournalist, who worked on assignments in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, had also been due to leave Zimbabwe the day after he died.

The NUJ was concerned that Richard's death could have been linked to his work an called for a full investigation into the case.

The NUJ's President, James Doherty, wrote to President Mbeki to call on him to ask him to raise the case with President Mugabe and the Zimbabwe authorities.

(BMcC)

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