Alan Henning: Friends tell of disbelief at Isis threat to behead 'family man with a heart of gold'

The former taxi driver was abducted while volunteering with a charity in Syria

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The Independent Online

Friends of Alan Henning, the British aid volunteer being held hostage by Islamic State (Isis) militants in Syria, have told of their disbelief at his imprisonment.

The 47-year-old taxi driver had travelled from home with his wife and children in Salford as a charity volunteer to help refugees caught up in the country's civil war.

His abduction was not made public until Saturday night, when he was paraded in front of cameras in an Isis video showing the murder of fellow British hostage David Haines.

The masked murderer, known as “jihadi John” threatened to kill Mr Henning next if David Cameron did not heed Isis demands to stop military action against the group.

Friends and neighbours did not know of his capture until the footage emerged.

Tracy Morrison, a neighbour, told Sky News people knew he was away in Syria but assumed he was still there working safely.

david-haines.jpg
Isis militants threatened to kill Mr Henning in a video showing the murder of David Haines (pictured)

“Then it just on the news yesterday, everyone's in complete shock, no one can believe it,” she said.

"He's just a typical family man that would do anything for his children and his wife.”

Mr Henning was described a friendly man with a “heart of gold" who was moved by the plight of people caught up in the Syrian civil war.

He reportedly ignored warnings to return to the country for a second time because of his determination to help.

"People are devastated, they really, really are,“ his friend Martin Shedwick told Sky News.

"They're walking around with their heads numb.

“He's just a taxi driver with a heart of gold who basically wanted to help people.”

Mr Henning's sister, Gill Kenyon, from Bury, Lancashire, posted a picture with her brother when they were children on Twitter to mark his birthday in August.

 

A accompanying message read: “Happy 47th birthday to my little bro Gadget/Alan Henning. Can't wait to have a party on your return, love you bro xx.”

He was captured while travelling through Syria in Al Dana, near Aleppo, with an aid convoy in December.

While fellow British aid workers who were Muslims were freed, according to freelance journalist Tam Hussein, Mr Henning was taken away.

David Cameron called Mr Henning a “British hero” and vowed to “hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice”.

Calling Isis "monsters", the Prime Minister said he would take “whatever steps are necessary” to destroy the group and has not ruled out British air strikes in Iraq or Syria.

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