The family of Anton Hammerl, a South African photojournalist who has been missing in Libya since early last month, said late Thursday that they think he died after being shot on April 5 in the desert.
Two journalists who were released by the Libyan government on Wednesday told Mr. Hammerl’s wife that they had been with him when he apparently was shot in the stomach, a family friend, Bronwyn Friedlander, said in a telephone interview. Ms. Friedlander was with Mr. Hammerl’s wife, Penny Sukhraj, and the couple’s children at their home in London.
Ms. Sukhraj heard a first-hand account of her husband’s shooting in a phone call from Clare Morgana Gillis and James Foley, who were among four journalists held by the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi until Wednesday. When Mr. Hammerl was not released with them, his family began to fear the worst.
South African officials called Ms. Sukhraj first on Thursday, then the colleagues called to share their account, Ms. Friedlander said.
After they came under fire, the photographers told her, they heard Mr. Hammerl cry “Help,” Ms. Friedlander recounted. Mr. Foley asked if he was alright and Mr. Hammerl said he was not. When they called out to him, there was no response.
Then, Qaddafi loyalists captured Ms. Gillis and Mr. Foley. They did not see Mr. Hammerl again, but they told his wife that they thought his injuries were so severe that there was “no hope that he would have survived,” Ms. Friedlander said.
Mr. Hammerl, 41, a former pictures editor and chief photographer for The Saturday Star in Johannesburg, had gone to cover the fighting in Libya in late March as a freelancer. In an interview this week published in The Lens blog on nytimes.com, while she awaited word of his fate, his wife described what her husband loved to do: “covering difficult situations; getting to the bottom of human dramas.”
In a statement posted Thursday night on a Facebook page dedicated to Mr. Hammerl’s memory, his family criticized how the Libyan government had treated them. “From the moment Anton disappeared in Libya we have lived in hope as the Libyan officials assured us that they had Anton,” the statement said. “It is intolerably cruel that Gaddafi loyalists have known Anton’s fate all along and chose to cover it up.”