PM leads tributes at Bigley memorial

Tony Blair led the tributes to the murdered hostage Ken Bigley yesterday at a memorial service in Liverpool which was also attended by Cherie Blair and the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw.

The congregation of 300 was headed by Mr Bigley's Thai widow, Sombat, mother Lily and younger brother Paul - who had accused Mr Blair at the time of Mr Bigley's death of having blood on his hands.

But Paul Bigley avoided any controversy during the service and spoke fondly of his brother: "Ken worked tirelessly to give his children a good life. In fact, he spent his whole life working unselfishly to provide for the people he loved.

"This final project in Baghdad was to help secure a better living for himself and Sombat and for their future life together," he said.

Mr Bigley's family had invited Mr Blair to attend the service on his return from meeting the newly re-elected US President, George Bush, in Washington DC.

Mr Bigley, 62, from Walton, Liverpool, was taken hostage by extremists in Baghdad, where he was an engineer, on 16 September and beheaded more than three weeks later. His body has never been recovered.

Another of Mr Bigley's brothers, Phil, 59, said: "Through the letters, cards and messages sent to us, we have felt the goodness and compassion in people, strengthening our resolve and confirming to us that there is no room in our complicated lives for hatred, retribution or greed; but there is much to be said for the most basic human values of caring, kindness, consideration and love.

"These are the values we should be showing, not just to our children, but also to one another."

Mr Blair read from Corinthians I and joined in prayers for both the Bigley family and all others involved in the war in Iraq, as well as for the murdered US hostages, Eugene Armstrong and Jack Henley, who were kidnapped with Mr Bigley.

The mourners filled barely a third of the Anglican Cathedral, which is the largest in Britain and can seat 1,000. Mohammad Iqbal, a 52-year-old Muslim from Liverpool, said it did not matter that the cathedral was relatively empty. "You only need one person there to share the compassion," he said.

"I came as a member of the public and as a Muslim to pay my respects. I just hope that events like this will bring people from all faiths together."