4 Oct 2014

Alan Henning family: ‘I always thought he’d be coming home’

Alan Henning’s brother-in-law says the family’s hopes had been raised and then shattered by Islamic State militants, as David Cameron says he will “hunt down” the British aid worker’s killers.

A new video appearing to show the murder of British aid worker Alan Henning by Islamic State militants was posted online on Friday night, following a threat to kill him last month.

The 47-year-old taxi driver from Salford was kidnapped last December in Syria, while he was delivering aid in the war-torn country.

The IS group has already killed British aid worker David Haines and two US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Henning’s brother-in-law Colin Livesy told ITV that he no longer believed in hope after what had happened to his sister’s husband. “I always thought he’d be coming home. I really did,” he said. “We kept drumming it into ourselves and everybody that we knew, ‘he’ll be home soon, don’t worry’. And now this has happened.”

Henning was last seen at the end of a video posted online by the Islamic State (IS) group three weeks ago, in which they threatened to kill him after apparently murdering David Haines.

Mr Livesy added: “Obviously we’d not heard nowt for two weeks. And I thought, ‘he’s getting through to them that he’s a really good guy that doesn’t deserve what was going to happen to him’. So I thought, ‘they have got a heart, they are going to let him go’, and then this happens.”

He said he was “emotionally drained” after hearing about the apparent murder, but thanked the public for their support.

'The news we hoped we would never hear' - the Henning family released this statement on Saturday: 
Alan, my husband, and father of Lucy and Adam, was kidnapped in Syria in December last year. Last night we received news of his murder by ISIL. It is the news we hoped we would never hear. As a family we are devastated by the news of his death. There are few words to describe how we feel at this moment. Myself, Lucy and Adam, and all of Alan's family and friends are numb with grief.

During this ordeal we have relied heavily on the support of many people. That support from the government, FCO and GMP has been there from the start and has meant that we were able to get through the most awful of times. We always knew that Alan was in the most dangerous of situations but we hoped that he would return home to us. That is not to be.

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.

Alan was a decent, caring human being. His interest was in the welfare of others. He will be remembered for this and we as a family are extremely proud of him and what he achieved and the people he helped.

We now need time to come to terms with our loss. We would therefore be grateful if our privacy could be respected at this time.

Alan Henning


Prime Minister David Cameron said that Henning’s killers would be “hunted down and face justice” and met with security chiefs on Saturday morning to discuss the apparent murder. “The brutal murder of Alan Henning by ISIL shows just how barbaric these terrorists are,” he added. “My thoughts are with his wife and their children.”

The one-minute, 11-second video titled Another Message to America and its Allies, shows Henning, dressed in orange, kneeling in a desert beside a man with a knife who is dressed in black.

Henning introduces himself and reads what appeared to be a pre-prepared statement saying: “Because of our parliament’s decision to attack the Islamic State, I, as a member of the British public, will now pay the price for that decision.”

The video then shows the jihadist alongside an American hostage identified as Peter Kassig. Addressing the US president, the militant says: “Obama, you have started your aerial bombardment in Sham (Syria), which keeps on striking our people. So it is only right that we continue to strike the necks of your people.”

It was posted online just hours after the father of British journalist John Cantlie, who is being held by IS, appealed for his son’s release:

IS ‘have no regard for Islam’

Muslim leaders had appealed to IS to release Henning, but to no avail, and they led the condemnation of his purported murder, which took place on Friday night on the eve of the Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha.

Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “This reported murder is a despicable and offensive act, coming as it does on the eve of the Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha.

“It is quite clear that the murderers of Alan Henning have no regard for Islam, or for the Muslims around the world who pleaded for his life. Alan was a friend of Muslims, and he will be mourned by Muslims.”

In this most recent video, the fourth apparent murder by the IS group, the group threatens an American hostage, identified as Peter Kassig.

‘He was doing the right thing’

French president Francois Hollande spoke of his “outrage” at the killing, US president Barack Obama condemned the “brutal murder”, and the United Nations Security Council described it as “heinous and cowardly”.

Earlier this week Mr Henning’s wife Barbara pleaded for him to be freed. She said: “I ask Islamic State please release him, we need him back home.”

She added: “Some say wrong time, wrong place. Alan was volunteering with his Muslim friends to help the people of Syria. He was in the right place doing the right thing.”

Mrs Henning also revealed that she had received an audio message of her husband pleading for his life, and had been told that a Sharia court had found him innocent of being a spy.

In a statement, the foreign office said: “We are aware of the video and are working urgently to verify the contents. If true, this is a further disgusting murder. We are offering the family every support possible; they ask to be left alone at this time.”