Paul Bigley: A day of celebration, but remember Ken and the other victims


When I saw the news of Norman Kember's release on Sky News yesterday morning, I had very mixed emotions. I was truly ecstatic, thrilled and physically shaking with joy for Mr Kember and his family.

It was an amazing rescue by security services, especially if it is true that no shot was fired. I was so relieved for Mr Kember and his family. Sadly, it also brought flooding back awful memories of another victim of the Iraq nightmare - my brother Ken.

He was working in Baghdad building houses when he was kidnapped. The world watched his fate played out in hideous video releases from his captives. He was paraded in an orange Guantanamo suit and chained.

Unfortunately, Ken's story did not have a joyful ending. His captivity could have had a different outcome but for a throw of the dice. As with Norman Kember and his colleagues in the Christian Peacemaker Team, there was an SAS attempt to free Ken but he was recaptured and murdered. There are reports that he was handed a gun by two of his guards, and helped to escape dressed in local robes. He was desperately trying to reach coalition troops when he was recaptured. He was decapitated, but his body has never been recovered.

Clearly the SAS were working on good intelligence to free Mr Kember, but we were never sure where Ken was held. It was thought it was 45 minutes south of Fallujah and I was shown US intelligence photographs of a place where Ken and the other captives may have been. There was blood on the ground, and weapons, remnants of food, chains and a cage. I am not sure it was a government priority to discover his remains.

I remember vividly the day Ken left for Baghdad. I took him to Manchester airport. He had asked me to put together some CDs of favourite country and western, and singers like Don Gibson and Buddy Holly. I told him, "Two minutes of that, and you will be in tears." I gave them to him outside the terminal and said: "Keep your head down."

I said: "You don't have to go. You don't need the money." But he had made commitments. He had just a fortnight left when he was grabbed.

Our thoughts today are with Norman Kember, the two Canadian hostages, James Loney and Harmeet Sooden, who were also freed, and with the family of Tom Cox, the US citizen, who was a member of their group and was killed.

However, my family still feels the pain of Ken's death. I would make this appeal to Tony Blair and Jack Straw. Help us bring closure by bringing home Ken's body. My mum celebrated her 88th birthday on 18 March but she had no birthday cards. She has said she won't have Christmas cards or birthday cards in the house until "my son comes home".

We share in the celebrations for Mr Kember and his family, but we ask that other victims be remembered too.

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