Tariq Aziz’s swimming pool

Today the news broke that Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s former deputy prime minister has died in an Iraqi prison aged 79, after suffering a heart attack.

Tariq Aziz, who was known as the public face of Saddam Hussein’s regime, also served as the country’s foreign minister and was a close advisor to Hussein. Aziz, who has been in prison for over a decade, was sentenced to death by the Iraqi Supreme Court in 2010 for his role in human-rights abuses committed under Hussein’s government.

The story broke just half an hour before we went on air with “Last Word”  BBC Radio 4’s obituary programme, so it was a scramble to change the running order and lead with the story. Many thanks to Jeremy Bowen who joined me live at such short notice.

I never met Tariq Aziz when I was covering Iraq but in the aftermath of the US invasion of Baghdad I ended up in his swimming pool. Baghdad was lawless and looters were running riot all over the city. Tariq Aziz was missing and we when we went to his palatial compound on the banks of the Tiber we found the looters had got their first.

Everything of value had been taken and the rest vandalised, the U.S forces who were supposed to be in control were nowhere to be seen. His swimming pool was drained and it made a convenient location for a piece to camera to illustrate the chaos that was rife across the city at the time.