The widow of Alan Henning, the British aid worker murdered by Islamic State militants, has told a memorial service he was killed “for being what we should be – selfless and caring”.
The 47-year-old taxi driver was kidnapped in December by Isis fighters in Syria and held captive before a video showing his beheading was released last month.
A private memorial service at Eccles parish church in Greater Manchester for invited guests was held, and audio was relayed outside the church. It was decked with yellow ribbons like those well-wishers had sported when there was still hope he would be freed.
His widow Barbara and daughter Lucy walked in with Bethany and Michael Haines, the daughter and brother of David Haines from Scone, Scotland, who was also murdered by Isis.
Mrs Henning told the memorial: “We must never forget the reason why he went to Syria and the reason he was taken from us – for being what we all should be, selfless and caring.”
She said she had been comforted by the words of well-wishers who have told her Alan will live on in their two teenage children, Lucy and Adam, and the grandchildren she will one day have.
She also revealed that the loving, witty and caring man was a great joker and a terrible snorer.
At the wedding of his nephew, where he was best man, Alan produced two Hula Hoops instead of the rings, she said.
She said her thoughts were with the families of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haines and Peter Kassig, the other westerners who were beheaded by Isis.
She added: “I hope and pray that John Cantlie will be released and returned to his family so that they are spared the horror.”
Mrs Henning asked for donations to be made to Hostage UK, a charity which helps the families of kidnap victims.
In a statement she released before the memorial, Mrs Henning said her children may never understand why their father was taken from them.
She said: “Alan was a peaceful, selfless man who left his family in the UK at Christmas 2013 to drive in a convoy all the way to Syria with his Muslim colleagues and friends to help those most in need. We, as a family, are extremely proud of him.
“Lucy and Adam understood why he had to go, he had explained to them how he had seen children with nothing, living in tents and queuing for food and water, and how much harder it was for them in the middle of winter.
“Some of these children had lost their entire families, killed by their own country’s leadership.
“On behalf of the entire family, I want to thank everyone who campaigned for Alan’s release, who held vigils to pray for his safe return and who condemned those who took him.
“Your efforts were a great support to us and we take comfort in knowing how many people stood beside us in hoping for the best.”
Mrs Henning also condemned his killers for using the banner of religion as an excuse to carry out their despicable crimes.
She said: “These people are hiding behind a peaceful religion to carry out their crimes against humanity.
“We know this because we have seen the outcry from Muslims across the globe, condemning their behaviour.
“I only hope that we can bring these people to justice or that they receive the justice they deserve in the next life. No god would ever condone the killing of innocent people.”
Henning’s murder is thought to have been at the hands of “Jihadi John”, an Isis fighter who speaks with a London accent and who is apparently responsible for the four other hostage killings.
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