A British optician kidnapped in Nigeria was murdered after playing 'Amazing Grace' on guitar to cheer up his fellow captives. Ian Squire, 57, was among four Christian missionaries seized by a gang during a raid in the early hours of October 13 in the country's southern Delta state. Details of the medical charity worker's death were initially withheld, but two of the other hostages held alongside Squire have now spoken of their horrifying ordeal.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Shirley and David Donovan explained that Squire was shot to death the day after the four Britons were captured, and just after singing a hymn. Dr Donovan told the paper how the group's spirits were lifted when the kidnappers returned a guitar and Mr Squire played 'Amazing Grace'. He told the paper: 'It was the perfect song, and at that point things began to look not quite as bad. But then, after Ian finished playing, he stood up, and a salvo of gunshots killed him instantly. We didn't see who did it, but it was obvious that someone in the gang had shot him. It was terrifying to see. We jumped out of the shack and into the water as we thought they were coming for us next, but a member of the gang came and put us back in there with Ian for the rest of the day.'
They were held with Ian Squire and Alanna Carson as the four were working as missionary medics in west Africa. The couple said they do not know why the captors murdered Squire, stressing that the gangsters refused to explain why they did it. The captives were freed after the kidnappers told them a ransom had been paid, and were met by two SUVs, with Mr Donovan saying the smell of the leather and the air conditioning 'was like stepping from one world into another'. The British High Commission and Nigerian authorities negotiated their release.
Former Cambridge GP Dr Donovan, 57, and his 58-year-old wife started medical charity New Foundations in 2003 after downsizing - and said it was their faith that kept them going after early setbacks including severe illness and thefts.
New Foundations operated a medical practice in Enekoragha, an area of Nigeria beset by bandits and gangsters. During their kidnapping, the group kept their spirits up by playing a version of BBC Radio 4 quiz The Unbelievable Truth, where contestants have to tell fact from fiction, with Mrs Donovan saying the game was 'prosaic but comforting'. They also reported that their captives - cultists whose gang was named after a local warrior god, Egbesu - were often seen drinking and taking drugs. The Egbesu Boys are still being hunted by the Nigerian government, with their leader - Karowei Gbakumor - on the run.
Monica Chard, a friend of Squire's, said of him: 'He was a lovely, quiet man who everyone knew and loved as the village optician. He went out to Africa every year with the charity and his wife was also involved. He just wanted to help people see who otherwise would not have had any help. His widow must be devastated, especially after three weeks of hell waiting to find out if he was alive. The people who kidnapped him are despicable. There are too many awful people in the world and he was definitely one of the good ones.'
Squire was credited with the invention of a portable solar powered frame and lens cutting machine to enable people to make prescription glasses in remote regions. According to the Shepperton and Sunbury Rotary Club, where Squire delivered several speeches about the charity, he aimed to provide one of the machines to each of his students in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for them to take back to their rural communities.
Squire had previously visited Nigeria on three separate occasions, having first visited the country in 2013. He and the other three hostages had been providing 'free medical care and religious activities' in the Burutu area of Delta state, said Chief Theo Fakama, from the local Enukorowa community.
In a statement released by the Foreign Office after Squire's death, the family said: 'We are all deeply saddened by the loss of Ian, a loving father, husband, and devout Christian, who dedicated much of his life in the service of others. It's clear that Ian had touched many hearts with his kindness and grace. The extent of his impact is only made more apparent by the overwhelming response from the community in the wake of his death. He was a man constantly pushing the boundaries of generosity with his charity work, the scope of which knew no borders, taking him all the way to developing countries that needed it the most. Whilst the pain of this loss will be felt for many years to come, we are heartened by the incredible show of support and love from those that his life touched. The family at this time appreciates your support and privacy as we deal with this unimaginable loss.'
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