STUDENTS and staff from Sedbergh School were in shock this week after a well-loved ex-pupil was shot dead in Iraq.

The private school’s 1996 head boy Richard Wild, 24, was pursuing his ambition to become a war correspondent when he was killed by a lone gunman outside the Iraqi National Museum, in Baghdad, on Saturday.

It was the novice reporter’s second week in the war-torn country where he was working as a freelancer.

“He was going out there to make a name for himself… to start his career,” explained James Lofthouse, a close school friend who was horrified to hear of Richard’s death.

“I just can’t believe it. He was 24! It’s tragic, especially someone like Richard. He was very talented all round.” Richard’s former housemaster and Sedbergh School deputy head John Morris described his former pupil as a “fantastically clever boy” and the “best pupil of his generation”.

“He was all singing, all dancing,” said Mr Morris. “He will be remembered more than anything else as one of those really nice people. He always talked to you… he was a wonderful ambassador – clever, bright witty and amusing.

“He was destined to go a long way, you could tell that.” During his school years Richard ticked off all the top roles and was immensely popular. He was head of house, head boy and won a coveted place on the school’s first rugby team. On top of that he was on the shooting team, was considered a fine actor and was president of the school debating team.

His career on leaving Sedbergh was no less illustrious. Richard, who hailed from Melrose, Roxburghshire, was a Lieutenant in the King’s Regiment for a year before attending Jesus College, Cambridge, to read history.

He went on to study for an MPhil in medieval history before briefly working in the City – a job he gave up for journalism.

“He was an idealist,” explained Mr Morris. “Everything had come his way, he had every opportunity. Yet he wasn’t the sort of boy who was going to go round thinking the world owed him a living. He wanted to put something back.” Throughout the Iraq war Richard had worked at ITN as a picture researcher. Those who came to know him during that time believed he was committed to telling the story of post-war Iraq.

Television producer Yasmin Hai described him as a young journalist with something to offer with something special about him. Before he set off for Iraq he bought £10,000 of camera kit and had managed to secure some commissions.

He sent footage to Channel 4 before he was shot while trying to flag a taxi outside the museum. Mr Wild is the 15th journalist to be killed since the Iraq war began. Some believe he may have been targeted because his newly cropped hairstyle and height led his attacker to mistake him for an American soldier.

Sedbergh School headmaster Christopher Hirst said he had spoken to Mr and Mrs Wild who were distraught over their son’s death – they had tried to persuade him not to go to Iraq. The school is planning to hold a service for Richard next term and is considering putting up a permanent memorial. His name might also be added to their cloisters war memorial.