Murdered doctor's family rejects claims that she was spy and missionary

The family of the British doctor shot dead in northern Afghanistan has dismissed claims by the Taliban that she had been preaching Christianity and spying for the Americans.

Dr Karen Woo, one of a group of 10 people killed in a remote area of Badakhshan province, was a "humanitarian" whose motivation was to give healthcare to ordinary people of Afghanistan, the family said in a statement. The insurgents declared that they executed Dr Woo and her companions, who were giving medicine to villagers and setting up a clinic, because they were carrying out missionary work and engaged in espionage.

"Her motivation was purely humanitarian. She was a humanist and had no religious or political agenda," her family said. "She wanted the world to know there was more than a war going on in Afghanistan, that people were not getting their basic needs met.

"She wanted the ordinary people of Afghanistan, especially the women and children, to be able to receive healthcare.... Her commitment was to make whatever difference she could. She was a true hero. Whilst scared, she never let that prevent her from doing things she had to do."

Dr Woo had been due to fly back to London this month with her fiancé, Mark "Paddy" Smith, to get married. Yesterday, Mr Smith saw Dr Woo's body in a morgue in Kabul.

"I just wanted to make sure that she hadn't been beaten or brutalised," he said. "She was fully clothed. She had been shot twice."

He said that Dr Woo had a "spiritual side" to her but was not religious. Mr Smith said he met Tom Little, the head of the expedition from the Christian charity International Assistance Mission who had worked in the country for 30 years. He said that Mr Little would not have tried to convert anybody to Christianity.

Mr Smith, a former British Army engineer, had just returned to Kabul from Britain after attending the funeral of a friend and colleague who was killed in an air crash in Afghanistan.

He said it had been a "privilege" to know Dr Woo. "Karen went to one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan just to help people. She was an incredible human being and it was a privilege to know her.

"It is such a terrible loss that someone who cared so much for people, for the people of Afghanistan, has gone. She made people happy, she put a smile into the faces of people who were suffering. I will miss her terribly, most of all I'll miss her love for life."

He said he had received hundreds of sympathetic emails from people around the world. "She just enjoyed helping people and she enjoyed new challenges. She just couldn't stop helping people. This was the trip of a lifetime.

"Not many people are going to get the chance to trek into Nuristan and deliver healthcare to people who have probably never had it before."

They had met when Mr Smith had helped Dr Woo carry her luggage. A month later they were in love. "It was all pretty whirlwind, but when something's right and this was very right. I hope I made her happy. She said I did, and she certainly made me happy."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor