David Haines: British hostage captured by Isis is experienced aid worker 'who helped Muslim communities in the Balkans'

Briton has been held captive in Syria for 17 months

The British hostage threatened with death by Islamic State (Isis) militants was an experienced aid worker who spent years “trying so hard” to help communities ravaged by war in the Balkans.

David Haines, who was identified in a video showing the beheading of a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff, has been held captive for the last 17 months. He was taken near the Atmeh refugee camp close to the Syrian border with Turkey in March 2013.

The militant threatening his life appears to be the same man who killed James Foley and Mr Sotloff, who speaks with a distinctive London or south-east accent and has been dubbed 'Jihadi John'.

The fighter paraded the British hostage in front of cameras, warning he was next if the US and Western government did not "back off" from fighting Isis.

Initially, the British media did not name Mr Haines following a request from the family, via the Foreign Office.

However, yesterday that changed as his identity was increasingly revealed by overseas publishers.

The 44-year-old father-of-two was reportedly born in Yorkshire but grew up in Scotland. He has been described as a “fantastic man and father” by his family.

He married his wife in Croatia in 2010, who recently posted a picture on Facebook with Mr Haines and their four-year-old daughter and a caption that said: “This is my world”.

His 17-year-old daughter also described her dad as a “hero” online, the Daily Mail reports, writing: ‘It’s been a really tough year without my dad. I think heroes exist, but they don’t all show off in a stupid cape. I think my dad’s a hero.”

A friend of the family told The Telegraph Mr Haines' wife received a video last year, possibly as proof he was still alive, while another hostage who contacted the family two months ago and said he was being treated “humanely” by his captors.

The Foreign Secretary said on Tuesday the UK will examine 'every possible option' to protect the Briton and confirmed there had already been an unsuccessful US-led attempt at rescuing him.

It is believed that he has been moved more than ten times across various locations in Syria.

A former colleague said Mr Haines worked for an aid organisation helping rebuild communities in Croatia between 1999 and 2004. He and his wife later settled near Zagreb, Croatia.

Profile: Who are Isis?
Analysis: Which countries pay ransoms to release hostages?
Read more: Obama warns US 'will not be intimidated' by Isis militants

“I was helping him rebuild the community. We were rebuilding houses, restarting schools that had been destroyed in the fighting,” he said.

“He used to help everyone — the Serbs, the Croats and the ethnic Muslims. He was completely fair to everyone and wanted to improve their lives. That’s why I was surprised that he had been kidnapped by Muslims, because he tried so hard to help them.

“He was someone who didn’t believe in bureaucracy. Even though he was in charge, he never talked down to anyone.

“When there were tensions in the community, he would bring people together to resolve them. He is tough but completely open-minded. I truly believe that will help him escape this situation.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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: SEO Account Manager

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SEO Account Manager is requi...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant - Global Leader - FTSE 250

£18000 - £23000 per annum + competitive: SThree: As an Associate Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Representative

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family run school photogra...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - OTE £42,000

£28000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be joining a leading s...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map