MH17 crash: Body of Newcastle United fan John Alder identified and to be brought home

The 63-year-old was travelling to see his team play in New Zealand

The identity of a Newcastle United fan who died in the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash has been confirmed as his family prepare to finally bring his body home.

John Alder, 63, was travelling to New Zealand for an away match with his friend Liam Sweeney when the plane was shot down over Ukraine on 17 July, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board.

The recovery operation in eastern Ukraine was delayed by fighting between Government and rebel forces and the identification process for Mr Alder has only recently been completed in the Netherlands.

Devastated fellow Newcastle United fans identified their two friends on the day of the crash but the Foreign Office has now officially confirmed his identity.

A spokesperson said: “The family have been informed and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”

His relatives have asked for his body to be recovered and brought back to the UK as soon as possible.

Mr Sweeney’s funeral was held in Newcastle on 21 August, when his remains were officially identified.

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Newcastle fan Liam Sweeney

The confirmation came on the day Newcastle United opened a garden of remembrance outside St James' Park for the two well-known supporters and other fans who have died.

The club's managing director, Lee Charnley, said: "The loss of John and Liam was truly devastating news.

"Both men were dedicated supporters of our club and were known to thousands of fans and staff alike."

Mr Alder, who was known to many Magpies supporters as "the Undertaker" because of his distinctive matchday dress, had barely missed a game home and away in almost 50 years following the club.

Alan Pardew, the manager, said he and Mr Sweeney had been to a pre-season friendly against Oldham just days before the disaster.

"We all knew how passionately John and Liam supported the team and the club,” he said.

“Their dedication to travel all the way around the world to support us in New Zealand tells you all you need to know about the passion they had for Newcastle United.

"Our hearts go out to their families and friends."

They were two of 10 Britons on the fated flight, including a former journalist, a helicopter pilot and students.

Additional reporting by PA