The band stops playing at the end of Sunnie's story: Martyn Gregory befriended Sunnie Mann while filming for Thames TV in Beirut. He reports on her funeral and her bravery
Saturday 05 December 1992
It was under a brilliant Beirut sky in May 1991 that I first met Sunnie Mann. She turned on her heel with a flourish 'Was that OK, darling?'. She had just finished picking her way through the pockmarked ruins in the Place des Martyrs for the benefit of the This Week film crew. We were to call the film 'The Forgotten Hostage.' Frustrated by the British government's continued inability to free her husband Jackie, she had decided to go public.
'You were magnificent, Sunnie, a real star,' I replied. 'Now you must do the whole thing again so we can shoot it from a second angle.' In a gesture of mock theatricality she placed the back of her left hand against her forehead and leaning on our camera tripod with her right hand, she barked: 'Absolutely not. Take one, take two, take three, when will it all end? I'm bloody exhausted and I want a beer.'
Five minutes later Take Two proceeded. I watched as the spotless, waif-like figure dressed entirely in white, drifted through the filth of Beirut's civil war. Clasping her handbag tightly to her side, she peered into the bleak cavernous ruins as if she half expected to find Jackie there. The silence of a thousand departed souls was broken only by the rumble of Syrian armoured personnel carriers and Sunnie's calm voice. 'I know he's here somewhere' she told our reporter Margaret Gilmore, in one of the most moving interviews I have ever heard. 'And I'm not leaving until I see him again. You see, he would know if I left.'
Sunnie Mann was a tough woman who knew precisely what she was doing. Of course, she loved being a star but she was doing it to get Jackie free and to earn enough money to survive in Beirut. It was her honesty that endeared her to millions and that same honesty which so dwarfed the array of bearded cowards who claimed to speak for Jackie's captors. Those blinkered fundamentalists who treated her husband like an animal for 865 days of solitary captivity. In the face of unanimous pleas for her to quit Beirut she held on, defending that tiny corner of a foreign field that would ever be hers until Jackie was free.
A poll we conducted for 'Forgotten Hostage' showed only one in 10 people in Britain had heard of Jackie Mann in May 1991. Four months later when he arrived at RAF Lyneham with Sunnie by his side they were household names: he was no longer forgotten, he was no longer a hostage. It was the man's finest hour.
At yesterday's moving ceremony the Prime Minister, John Major, paid tribute to the man's courage and fighting spirit which had made them both national figures. He expressed the sadness that we all feel that the Manns had had so little time to catch up on the stolen years.
Although she told no one, Sunnie feared in October she might be seriously ill. She asked her doctor to postpone an in-depth investigation until after Jackie and she had enjoyed a Mediterranean cruise on the QE2. 'A free trip love]' she wrote in her last letter to me. The night before they left, Margaret Gilmore and I had dinner with them for the last time. The twinkle was back in their eyes, they were at peace with each other. We ate not a stone's throw from the Dorchester Hotel where they fell in love 50 years ago as the band played:
'Yours till the stars lose their glory. . .
Yours till the end of life's story'
Perhaps only Sunnie knew as we tottered back along Piccadilly quite how soon the end of her story might be. For those who loved her she was a star who never lost her glory.
- 1 Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
- 2 Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered
- 3 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 4 Now we know whose fault it is if you end up being murdered in Thailand
- 5 35,000 walrus gather ashore on north-west Alaska beach 'for a rest'
Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
Car tax disc changes: Five facts you never knew about your (almost obsolete) tax disc
The Aral Sea: Nasa pictures show how what was once the fourth largest lake in the world has become almost completely dry
Brad Pitt, on the moment he completely lost his temper with Clint Eastwood's son
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
- < Previous
- Next >
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...
£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...
Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...