Anton’s Story

Events and bio

Anton in Brega

April 5th 2011

On April 5th, 2011 South African photographer Anton Hammerl went missing after coming under fire from Gaddafi loyalists near the oil port of Brega in Libya. The three journalists with him, Clare Gillis, James Foley and Manu Brabo were captured and detained for 44 days.

For 44 days Anton’s family was told repeatedly by the Libyan regime that Anton was alive and well. The truth is he was left to die in the desert.

Anton Hammerl, 1969-2011

Anton, 41, was a former picture editor and chief photographer for The Saturday Star in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was mentored by the late Ken Oosterbroek, member of the acclaimed South African ‘Bang Bang Club’, and worked for the Associated Press, the Sunday Independent, Reuters and the Star Newspaper.

Anton and Penny

Anton and Penny

He moved to London in 2006 where he became a freelance photographer, shooting both news and corporate work. He had gone to cover the fighting in Libya in late March as a freelancer.

Anton is survived by his three children – 11 year-old Aurora, 8 year-old Neo, and 1 year-old baby Hiro – and his wife Penny Sukhraj.

Anton Hammerl's baby Hiro

Baby Hiro

44 Days of Agony

The Libyan regime repeatedly told Anton’s family that he was alive and well. The truth is Anton died on day one. It is now clear that the Gaddafi regime knew about Anton’s fate all along and chose to cover it up.

The following timeline will take you through the 44-day agony his family went through until the truth about Anton’s fate came out.

  • March 28, 2011
    Anton flies to Libya to cover the violent uprising against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.
  • Tuesday, April 5 (DAY 1)
    Anton comes under attack on the outskirts of Brega.
  • Thursday, April 7
    Photographer Samuel Aranda then HRW call the family. They believe Anton was captured by Gaddafi loyalists, along with journalists Clare Morgana Gillis, James Foley and Manu Brabo.
  • Friday, April 8
    Libyan authorities confirm that the four journalists captured were thought to include Anton. HRW says the Libyan authorities have said they would be taken to Tripoli and released.
  • Tuesday, April 12
    Anton’s family is informed that the matter of Anton’s release was not raised during South African President Jacob Zuma’s visit to Libya.
  • Thursday, April 14 – Penny’s birthday
    The other three detained journalists have each been allowed a call to their families. Anton’s family are yet to hear from him.
  • Wednesday, April 20
    Photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros are killed in Misrata.
  • Thursday, April 21
    Fellow journalist Clare Morgana Gillis calls her parents from detention in Libya. Clare says Anton had not been with her and the two other journalists in captivity. Despair sets in.
  • Friday, April 22
    GlobalPost reports that a Libyan official has said Anton is alive and well. A South African foreign affairs official confirms this. It is said that Anton will contact his wife. It does not happen.
  • Tuesday, April 26 The Austrian Foreign Ministry says two independent sources have confirmed that Anton is alive and well.
  • Wednesday, May 18
    Journalists James Foley, Clare Morgana Gillis and Manu Brabo are released and bought to the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli. Anton’s family and friends watch this unfold live on TV.
  • Thursday, May 19
    At 10pm BST Penny receives a call from the South African authorities telling her that Anton is believed to be dead, shot in the desert by pro-Gaddafi forces.
  • Thursday, April 5, 2012
    A year after the attack Anton’s remains have still not been found.

Recovering Anton’s remains

A campaign is underway in Libya right now to locate and recover Anton’s remains.