David Haines remembered: Death of British hostage executed by Isis lamented from the Balkans to Sudan

The former RAF engineer and latest victim of grisly Isis propaganda, is remembered as a passionate humanitarian by those he helped

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The Independent Online

The British hostage who was murdered by Isis terrorists spent much of his working life as an aid worker helping to protect civilians in some of the world’s most dangerous countries.

David Haines, 44, who had two children, used his military experience from 12 years in the Royal Air Force to support various humanitarian missions throughout Syria, Libya, Sudan and the Balkans.

He helped to protect refugees and oversaw projects to remove landmines that posed a threat to civilians.

However, Mr Haines’s long years of assistance to some of most vulnerable people in the world mattered little to the Isis fanatics who seized him 19 months ago near the Atmeh refugee camp, close to Syria’s border with Turkey.

At the request of the British Government, his family and the media agreed not to report details of his capture for fear of inflaming the tense situation.

But the silence, sadly, did not produce results and late on Saturday night, footage of Mr Haines’s shocking murder was posted on the internet.

Mr Haines was born in Holderness, Yorkshire, and was brought up in Perth by his parents Herbert and Mary, who are now 77 and 79 and live in Ayr.

He studied at Perth Academy before he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and joined the military aged 17. Little is known about Mr Haines’s time in the armed forces. A brief entry on his LinkedIn page states he held “various positions covering security and threat assessments in a number of different countries” between 1988 and 1999.

 

During his time in the RAF, Mr Haines married his “childhood sweetheart”, Louise, with whom he had a daughter, Bethany, now aged 17.

He left the RAF and, according to his brother Mike, chose to dedicate his life to “helping people in real need”.

Between 1999 and 2004 he worked at a German charity, ASB, helping to revive abandoned villages and to return refugees to their homes in the former Yugoslavia.

Darinko Dumbovic, the mayor of Petrinja, a town in Croatia, said: “We called him the ‘Scot’ as he once came to a wedding wearing a kilt. He was a hard-working and reliable man who was of great help restoring houses and daily life to the people of Petrinja and the nearby villages.”

Nena Skoric, his landlady at the time, said he once organised a charity concert against landmines. “He was such a good man and he was like one of my family,” she said.

“I don’t know what is wrong with the kidnappers. Don’t they know he was helping Muslims? They don’t seem to care about that.”

Beyond his humanitarian work Mr Haines set up Astraea, a catering supplies business, in Croatia but his main focus was always helping people in dire need.

When he worked in the Balkans, Mr Haines moved to Sisak, a town south of the Croatian capital, Zagreb. Following his divorce, he married his translator Dragana Prodanovic, 45, with whom he had a daughter, Athea, now aged four.

“He’s everything to us,” Ms Prodanovic told The Daily Telegraph days before her husband’s death. “He’s our life. He’s a fantastic man and father. Nobody can understand how we are feeling. My daughter keeps asking about him every day.

“She hasn’t seen her father for a year-and-a-half. She has gone through so much. She sees me crying all the time.”

At the height of the Libyan civil war in 2011, Mr Haines travelled to the country’s capital, Tripoli, where he worked with the emergency charity Handicap International on de-mining programmes.

A year later Mr Haines travelled to South Sudan, where he was a security manager for Nonviolent Peaceforce, a civilian peacekeeping group.

Tiffany Easthom, the South Sudan country director for the organisation, said: “He was hard-working, very caring and had a good sense of humour. He was willing to sleep in tents and build compounds in the jungle for our team.”

In 2013, Mr Haines joined the Paris-based Agency for Technical Co-operation and Development. He had been with the French charity just 10 days when he was kidnapped with a colleague, Italian aid worker Federico Motka, in March that year.

His translator at the time, who asked not to be named, later recalled the incident to The Independent: “They were wearing black masks and were so professional. One of them put a gun to my head and threatened me not to tell anyone what I had seen. They put [Mr Haines and Mr Motka] in the boot of their car and shot out the tyres of our car.”

Mr Motka was freed in May this year with the Italian government reportedly handing over almost £5m. The UK Government refuses to pay hostage ransoms.

The Mail on Sunday reported that Mr Haines was tortured in captivity with Tasers, developing severe vomiting and diarrhoea while he was being held by a group of Isis members said to be from the UK.

Earlier this month, Mr Haines was seen at the end of the Isis video that depicted the murder of the American journalist Steven Sotloff, clad in an orange jumpsuit. The killer threatened to behead Mr Haines as well if Britain continued to support American air strikes against the terrorist organisation.

As hopes for a last-minute rescue mission faded, Mr Haines’s daughter Bethany posted a series of heartbreaking statements about her father on social media websites.

She described him as a “hero”, and said: “I miss my dad. I would do anything to have him home.” Four days ago, she tweeted: “Daddy … You’ll be in my heart always.”

Later, she said simply: “No matter how many years go by, I know one thing to be as true as ever was – I’ll see you soon.”