Simon Cumbers

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Simon Cumbers
Simon Cumbers.jpg
Born23 January 1968
Died6 June 2004(2004-06-06) (aged 36)
Saudi Arabia
Cause of deathShooting
Burial placeRedwood Cemetery, Greystones, County Wicklow, Ireland
MonumentsSimon Cumbers Media Fund
Alma materSt Patrick's Classical School
Years active1988–2004
EmployerBBC News & Freelance
Known forCovering dangerous news stories
TitlePrint and broadcast journalist, TV news producer, TV cameraman
Spouse(s)Louise Bevan

Simon Cumbers (23 January 1968 – 6 June 2004), an Irish cameraman for the BBC News in the United Kingdom, was shot by a gunman in a terrorist attack and died while reporting in As-Suwaidi, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.[1] His colleague Frank Gardner was also shot and he survived the terrorist attack but was left paralysed.[2][3]

Personal life[edit]

Simon Cumbers is the son of Robert (Bob) and Bronagh (Brona) Cumbers. The couple raised their two boys Simon and Stephen and two girls Eimear and Catraoine in Navan, County Meath, Ireland. Simon Cumbers was educated at St. Patrick's Classical School.[4]

Cumbers married Louise Bevan, who is a journalist for BBC News 24 and Radio 5 Live.[5]

Cumbers was 36 years old at the time of his murder and he was buried at Redwood Cemetery, Greystones, County Wicklow, Ireland.[4][6]


While a student at St. Patrick's, he was editor of the school magazine, Tuairim; features writer for Drogheda Independent, Ipswich Evening and Meath Chronicle; and hosted a radio show for Royal County Radio, a local pirate radio station.[4][7] He started reporting for theThe Weekender.[8] Around the age of 20, he started as a rookie and advanced to chief reporter for Capitol Radio (now called FM104) in Dublin, Ireland.[9][10][7] In 1990, Cumbers moved to the United Kingdom to work with a variety of British broadcasters, including ITN's Channel 4 News, Channel 4 Daily, Sky News, APTN, and the BBC.[1][5][11] Cumbers worked both as a journalist and a producer. In the late 1990s, he retrained and became a cameraman as well, establishing Locum Productions with his wife and BBC journalist Bevan, to supply camera crews to broadcasters.[7][12][13] Among the stories Cumbers reported on were the 1989 death of Nicolae Ceaușescu during the Romanian Revolution; 1990 release of Brian Keenan in Beirut, Lebanon; the late 1990s Drumcree conflict; 1998 Good Friday Agreement and Omagh bombing, 2000 Kursk submarine disaster, and 2004 Madrid train bombings.[7][4][10][12] He had also interviewed Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.[14]


Al-Suwaidi, Saudi Arabia
Simon Cumbers was killed in Al-Suwaidi, Saudi Arabia shown relative to the capital Riyadh.

Journalist Frank Gardner and cameraman Simon Cumbers were assigned to report on the aftermath of the May 2004 Yanbu attack and Khobar massacre terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, both of which had British casualties.[4] The British Foreign Office had restricted nonessential travel there.[11] On Sunday morning, the team arrived in the As-Suwaidi neighbourhood of Riyadh, an ultraconservative area where Al-Qaeda was known to have a presence.[6][11]

The team was in place reporting between 10 and 30 minutes and a man, later identified as Adel al-Dhubaiti, greeted the journalists and then opened fire on them. This was followed by shooting from five others who were waiting inside a van. Cumbers was killed at the scene, while Gardner attempted escape but was seriously injured.[6] Cumbers' killer was later sentenced to death.[15]

Cumbers' death was considered a murder in the UK. In Saudi Arabia, Adel al-Dhubaiti was arrested in 2004; tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death in November 2014, and executed 2 January 2016. Cumbers' parents spoke out against his execution.[6][10][16][17][18]

Frank Gardner wrote a book called Blood and Sand about his reporting in Saudi Arabia and the attack on him and Cumbers.[19]


A week before Gardner and Cumbers reported from Saudi Arabia, twenty-two foreigners were taken hostage and killed by a faction of Al-Qaeda during a shooting rampage, known as the Khobar massacre, in an eastern oil hub. The attack was an attempt from Islamic radicals to try to drive out foreigners. This act of violence made oil prices increase rapidly. The leader of the attack was Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin.[6][20]

Later in the same month that Cumbers was killed, US citizen Paul M. Johnson Jr was beheaded in Saudi Arabia.[21]


A year after Cumbers' death, Irish Aid established the Simon Cumbers Media fund in honour of his memory. The fund's aim is to help, assist, and promote better quality media coverage of issues in the Irish media.[10]

Cumbers was one of the 48 British and Irish journalists who were killed while reporting abroad between 2001 and 2010.[14]


Koïchiro Matsuura, the director-general of UNESCO, condemned the attack. His statement said, "I condemn this attack which targeted two media professionals carrying out their professional work, and who were investigating the ruthless al-Qaeda terrorist network. It is no coincidence that the enemies of freedom and democracy attack media professionals whose work upholds the values of freedom, enshrined in the United Nations Charter, and of freedom of expression, guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."[22]

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said, "We have to be vigilant and get out and get after them and make sure we deal with this (terrorism) issue."[11]

A spokesperson for the Committee to Protect Journalists said, "We deplore this deadly attack on our colleagues and call on Saudi authorities to apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice in a timely manner."[23]

Stewart Purvis, a former chief executive of ITN, said, "These are tragic circumstances and they are very dangerous for any media presence in Saudi Arabia."[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Obituary: Simon Cumbers". The Guardian.
  2. ^ McGreevy, Ronan (7 June 2004). "BBC reporter's Muslim plea after Riyadh shooting". The Times (UK).
  3. ^ "Shot TV Reporter Flies Back Home". Sky News.
  4. ^ a b c d e ""Don't execute our son's killer": Navan family's plea to Saudis". Navan: Meath Chronicle. 1 July 2009. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  5. ^ a b c "UK – Obituary: Simon Cumbers".
  6. ^ a b c d e "Simon Cumbers". Committee to Protect Journalists.
  7. ^ a b c d "Simon Cumbers: journalist and cameraman". pressgazette.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Claire Cozens. "'Loyal and generous of spirit': tributes to Cumbers flood in". The Guardian.
  9. ^ "Tributes paid to slain cameraman". The Irish Times. 8 June 2004.
  10. ^ a b c d "Simon Cumbers's killer executed in Saudi Arabia". The Irish Times. 3 January 2016.
  11. ^ a b c d "BBC Reporter Shot, Critical". CBS News. 8 June 2004.
  12. ^ a b "BBC man 'was unlawfully killed'". BBC News. 18 April 2006. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  13. ^ "Company profile". Locum Productions Limited. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  14. ^ a b "In remembrance – journalists who gave their lives for their trade". ITV News.
  15. ^ "Simon Cumbers: BBC man's killer sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia". BBC News. 18 November 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
  16. ^ "Killer of Irish journalist Simon Cumbers believed to be among 47 executed by Saudi Arabia".
  17. ^ "Simon Cumber's parents speak out on killer's death: 'We didn't want him executed'".
  18. ^ Chris Green (18 November 2014). "Family of BBC cameraman murdered in Saudi terror attack regret killer's death sentence". The Independent.
  19. ^ "Blood and Sand".
  20. ^ "Obituary: Abd al-Aziz al-Muqrin". The Guardian (UK). 21 June 2004. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  21. ^ " – Al Qaeda militants kill American hostage – Jun 18, 2004".
  22. ^ "UNESCO Condemns Attack on BBC Journalists in Saudi Arabia". Archived from the original on 15 April 2005. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  23. ^ "CPJ calls on authorities to apprehend perpetrators of attack on BBC cameraman and reporter". IFEX.

External links[edit]