British victim of Jerusalem blast is named

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A British national killed after an explosion ripped through a bus stop in Jerusalem was an evangelical Christian who was studying Hebrew.

Mary Jean Gardner, 59, originally from Orkney in Scotland, was caught in the blast yesterday afternoon when a device weighing up to 2kg exploded in a busy bus station.

About 50 people were injured in the attack, which was blamed on Palestinian militants.

Foreign Secretary William Hague described the incident as a "shocking and despicable act of terrorism".

Ms Gardner worked for Wycliffe Bible Translators and spent much of her life living in Togo.

She leaves behind her parents, who still live in Orkney, but she was not married and did not have children.

Wycliffe executive director Eddie Arthur described her as a "lovely lady who was very popular".

He said: "Mary worked with Wycliffe in Togo since 1989 where she was part of a team translating the New Testament into a language called Ife.

"The New Testament was finished in 2009 and Mary had then gone on to work helping other people.

"She was in Israel for six months studying Hebrew in order to go back to Togo to translate the Old Testament.

"Mary was an extremely popular and competent colleague and we valued her very highly.

"She will be sorely missed by her ex-pat colleagues and colleagues from Togo.

"She was a lovely lady who was very popular."

Mr Arthur continued: "She was someone who had shown a huge dedication to the people she worked with. She spent years of her life living in a remote area of Togo, dedicated to the Ife people."

The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Ms Gardner, who was studying at the Hebrew University in the city, was killed by the blast across the street from the Jerusalem Convention Centre near the central bus station.

A spokesman said: "The explosion was caused by a bomb placed at a telephone booth near the bus stop. The victims had been standing at the bus stop or nearby when the device exploded.

"(Ms Gardner) was critically wounded as a result of the bombing, and rescue services transferred her to hospital, where doctors fought for her life for about an hour and ultimately were forced to declare her dead."

Mr Hague said everything possible was being done to assist the victim's family and her travelling companions.

He told MPs: "I know the House will join me in sending our deepest condolences to her family at this tragic time, as well as our solidarity with the people of Israel in the face of such a shocking and despicable act of terrorism.

"I condemn this attack in the strongest terms and call for those responsible to be held to account.

"I am also gravely concerned about renewed rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza and the deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

"I urge all parties to restore calm and work to achieve the two states which are the only lasting hope for peace."

Police said the device went off in a small bag placed next to a food stand called "a blast of a kiosk". The owner said he named the kiosk in remembrance of an earlier attack at the same site in 1993.

Before the blast, kiosk worker David Amoyal warned the authorities flames were blazing from a nearby phone booth. He was among those wounded in the explosion.

The bombing was the first fatal attack in Jerusalem since 2004 and stoked fears of a fresh round of hostilities.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned militants not to test Israel's "iron will" and vowed a tough response. But he also expressed hope that calm would be restored.

Today Israeli aircraft struck Palestinian militant targets in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket and mortar attacks.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said there were gag orders preventing discussion of the investigation into the bus stop bombing and Jerusalem police remained on a heightened state of alert.