MARIE Colvin, who has been killed in the Syrian city of Homs, was without doubt one of the finest foreign correspondents of her generation, and also one of the most fearless. In the 25 years or so years that I have known Marie she was invariably to be found on the front line of the world's most dangerous conflicts, laughing off the very real risks she faced as though it was just another day in the office. Beirut, Gaza, Iraq, the Balkans, Sri Lanka – wherever there was trouble, you could guarantee that Marie would be in the thick of it.
An American journalist who made her name writing for British newspapers, Marie was in many respects the Martha Gellhorn of her day. During a highly distinguished career at the Sunday Times she duly scooped up a clutch of awards for her tenacious reporting, which brought home to the outside world what was really happening in the world's most dangerous war zones.
But despite her formidable bravery – which cost her an eye in Sri Lanka ten years ago – Marie never lost either her feminine charm or her wonderful sense of humour. Even in the darkest corners of places like Gaza and Beirut, I can still hear her making fun of our circumstances, livening our spirits while all around chaos and confusion ruled.
Perhaps the best tribute to Marie was penned by the woman herself in the recent address she gave at St Bride's Church in Fleet Street – the hacks' church – in memory of the 49 journalists who have been killed on assignment so far this century.
"Our mission," said Marie, "is to report these horrors of war with accuracy and without prejudice." And that sense of mission has just cost a very brave and talented woman her life.
Con Coughlin is the DailyTelegraph's executive foreign editor