David Haines: military man drawn to aid work

14th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

British aid worker David Haines was a former military man who spent years helping the neediest in warzones, but his dedication led to him becoming the latest hostage to be beheaded by Islamic State militants in Syria.

To his family, the 44-year-old was a loving father, husband and what his brother described on Sunday as "just another bloke" who could be the life and soul of the party, but they said he was "most alive" when working in the toughest of circumstances.

Haines, a father of two children, trained with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and worked with relief agencies in the Balkans, Libya, South Sudan and Syria.

He was working in Syria for the Paris-based NGO Acted when he was seized by militants in March 2013, along with an Italian colleague, Federico Motka.

Motka was freed in May but there was no news of Haines until he was threatened in a video released this month showing the beheading of US journalist Steven Sotloff.

It subsequently emerged that Britain tried unsuccessfully to rescue Haines, and just on Friday his family had appealed directly to the militants holding him to contact them.

But IS made good on its threat and Haines has become the third Western hostage to be beheaded in a month.

In a statement, his brother Mike said he had been "murdered in cold blood".

He said he would be "missed terribly", and recalled a loving childhood growing up with his brother, with holidays in caravans and tents and youthful japes.

"David was like so very many of us, just another bloke," he said.

"David was a good brother, there when I needed him and absent when I didn't. I hope that he felt the same way about me.

"He was, in the right mood, the life and soul of the party and on other times the most stubborn irritating pain in the ass. He would probably say the same about me."

- 'Most alive' in aid roles -

Haines was born in 1970 in Yorkshire in northern England but moved to Scotland as a child, attending school in Perth.

He worked for the Royal Mail postal service before joining the Royal Air Force (RAF) as an aircraft engineer.

With the military he worked in "various positions covering security and threat assessments in a number of different countries", according to his online CV.

It was during a posting in the Balkans that he began to turn towards humanitarian work, which he would go on to do in brief bursts between work as a security consultant.

"He helped whoever needed help, regardless of race, creed or religion," Mike Haines recalled.

He added: "David was most alive and enthusiastic in his humanitarian roles.

"His joy and anticipation for the work he went to do in Syria is for myself and family the most important element of this whole sad affair."

He left the RAF and after a stint with Scottish railway company, Scotrail, went to work for the German group Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund, which carried out post-war reconstruction work in Croatia.

In 2011, he worked in Libya as head of mission for Handicap International, which helps disabled people in poverty and conflict zones around the world.

The following year, he was in South Sudan with the US group Nonviolent Peaceforce, which deploys unarmed civilians as unofficial "peacekeepers" in conflict zones.

In a statement, Nonviolent Peaceforce said Haines "saved many people's lives through his good work", adding that they were "outraged by his brutal murder".

Haines was married twice, first to his childhood sweetheart Louise. They had a daughter, Bethany, now a teenager of whom he was "exceptionally proud", his brother said.

In 2010 Haines married Dragana Prodanovic, a Croatian woman with whom he had a four-year-old daughter, Athea.

© 2014 AFP

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