Husband's hopes dashed by video of killing

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The Independent Online

The news that a tape showing the murder of his wife was probably genuine came as a shattering blow to Tahseen Hassan. His hope that Margaret Hassan was alive and may be freed had been growing recently.

The news that a tape showing the murder of his wife was probably genuine came as a shattering blow to Tahseen Hassan. His hope that Margaret Hassan was alive and may be freed had been growing recently.

The video of Mrs Hassan's murder was handed to al-Jazeera last Thursday, but the station decided not to broadcast the film. Instead it contacted British diplomats, who sent a specialist team to the network's headquarters in Qatar. Only when the diplomats were certain of the tape's authenticity did they tell her husband. He was told about the probable authenticity of the video by the British embassy in Baghdad but has not seen it himself.

Mr Hassan said last night: "All I know is what I have been told, that there is a video of Margaret which shows her death, her murder. Of course I have been hoping that she was alive, that she will come back home one day. I am hoping to hear some more news, at least where her body is, so that I can give her a proper burial. I feel shattered now, I just do not know what to think any more."

Mr Hassan has been pursuing his own efforts to free his wife through private channels, and he had come to believe that she was being held in the Abu Ghraib area, south-west of Baghdad. Intermediaries had also told him that they were negotiating her freedom.

Foreign Office experts analysed the tape purporting to show Mrs Hassan's murder. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said Mrs Hassan had "probably been murdered, although we cannot conclude this with complete certainty."

"I want to express my deepest sympathy and condolences to Margaret's family. They have been through a month of the most terrible uncertainty and torment. To kidnap and kill anyone is inexcusable. But it is repugnant to commit such a crime against a woman who has spent most of her life working for the good of the people of Iraq."

Tony Blair expressed his "abhorrence at the cruel treatment of someone who devoted so many years of their life to helping the people of Iraq."

US Marines found the mutilated body of a "Western woman" in Fallujah. But the victim was wearing a blue dress and had blonde hair, descriptions which do not tally with Mrs Hassan. Both Mr Hassan and diplomatic sources confirmed her abductors had not made any further demands after two videos in which she pleaded with the Prime Minister not to send British troops north from Basra in support of the Americans, and to free women prisoners.

The kidnappers threatened to hand her to the group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant leader responsible for the beheadings of a number of Western hostages. But a message believed to be from his group called for Mrs Hassan's release and promised to free her if she fell into their hands.

Bertie Ahern, the Taoiseach, said that the Irish government's thoughts and prayers were with the family of Mrs Hassan, who was born in Dublin.

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