The police officer who was photographed recovering the body of Syrian three-year-old Aylan Kurdi has described the moment he found the dead child.
Paramilitary policeman Mehmet Ciplak was pictured carrying Aylan’s body away from the surf in images which sparked international outrage and a huge public response to the refugee crisis.
Sgt Ciplak said he had no idea the pictures were being taken as he walked over to the boy, lying face down on the water’s edge, praying that he wasn’t dead.
A crime scene investigator for 18 years, he said the incident last Wednesday had left him “sick at heart”.
Speaking to Turkey’s Dogan News Agency, he said: “When I saw the baby on the beach, I approached and said to myself, ‘Dear God, I hope he’s alive’.”
He said: “When I found out he was dead, I was crushed deep down inside. It was a terrible sight, it was a terrible loss.”
Sgt Ciplak said that the deaths of refugees in the Mediterranean were a “shame for humanity”, and said he was not aware at the time of the role he was playing in bringing them to international attention.
“I didn't see the photographer and didn't know the picture was being taken,” he said. “I was just doing my job.”
Sgt Ciplak’s interview came as Tima Kurdi, Aylan’s aunt, spoke at a memorial service for the family in Canada on Saturday.
Ms Kurdi said she “blames herself” for the fate of the family after lending Abdullah Kurdi, Aylan’s father, the money to pay for the crossing.
She said that Abdullah had told relatives he never wants to leave Syria again after burying the boy alongside his other son, Galip, and wife, Rehan.
“He only wanted to go to Europe for the sake of his children,” said Suleiman Kurdi, an uncle of the grieving father. “Now that they're dead, he wants to stay here in Kobani next to them.”
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