Former Chronicle photographer Lee Thompson is lucky to have returned from Libya unharmed after coming under fire as he fled Gaddafi’s compound.

Lee, 29, from Vicars Cross, was working for a national newspaper when he and a female reporter hitch-hiked to Tripoli with rebels, having entered the country via the Libyan-Tunisian border.

They joined the rebels for a tour of Colonel Gaddafi’s compound after it had been overrun by their comrades.

“I walked around and picked up a few souvenirs, there was a cinema, a living area, there were some diaries so I was looking through them. Everybody was helping themselves, There were some paintings by his son,” said Lee.

“In the reception there was table football and a rocket collection with missiles hanging from the ceiling. A couple of the football players had been shot at so I grabbed a couple of them.”

Chester photographer Lee Thompson with gaddafi's golden gun and the Libyan who found the weapon
 

Then Lee and his group became aware they were in danger.

“Gaddafi’s soldiers starting retreating back that way and we ended up on the front line. There was mortar fire and loud bangs so we ran for our lives to the car. As we drove off Gaddafi’s soldiers were spraying bullets towards us.”

In hindsight, the ex-Christleton High School pupil feels it was a foolish to enter the compound.

But the drama was not over as his driver then crashed the car into a road block at speed although everyone escaped relatively unscathed.

Now back at his London home, Lee intends to jet over to see his New York-based girlfriend Natasha who has been frantic with worry as well as dealing with the effects of Hurricane Irene.

“I couldn’t get in touch with her for 24 hours because of the hurricane,” said Lee, who found what it was like when the tables were turned.

The body of Colonel Gaddafi in a morgue with the bodies of his son Muatassim and his ex-defense minister Abu Bakr Younis in Misrata