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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 October, 2004, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Prayers offered for Ken Bigley
Ken Bigley
A video showed Mr Bigley pleading for his life shortly before his death
Prayers have been said for murdered hostage Ken Bigley at church services all over Britain.

British diplomats in Baghdad are still trying to retrieve the body of the 62-year-old engineer who was kidnapped and beheaded in Iraq.

A video posted on an Islamist website on Sunday showed him pleading for his life shortly before he was killed.

Dressed in an orange jump suit he said: "I am a simple man who just wants to live a simple life with his family."

Last plea

Mr Bigley also addressed Prime Minister Tony Blair saying: "Here I am again, Mr Blair and your government, very, very close to the end of my life."

He makes another appeal for his captors' demands to be met: "Please, please give them what they require, the freedom of the women in Abu Ghraib prison. If you do this the problem is solved."

Ken Bigley is remembered in mass at Liverpool 's Roman Catholic cathedral
There has been a joint statement by the leaders of all the faiths - we walk together
RC Archbishop of Liverpool

The Tawhid and Jihad group, led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, took Mr Bigley hostage along with two US colleagues in Baghdad on 16 September. It beheaded the Americans the following week.

Mr Bigley is thought to have been murdered on Thursday.

There have been several reports that he had managed to briefly escape for about half an hour, with the help of one of his captors, before being recaptured.

The claims were described as "credible" by Iraqi government sources.

Iraqi foreign minister Hoshiyar Zebari told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost on Sunday it was "likely" Mr Bigley had escaped but he had no confirmation.

"Insurgents sources" told Reuters news agency he was caught in farmland near the town of Latifiya, south-west of Baghdad.

The Foreign Office has refused to comment on the claims.

'Faiths united'

Mr Bigley was remembered at special church services in his home city of Liverpool on Sunday.

More than 300 worshippers attended Sunday mass at the city's catholic cathedral.

People signing book of condolence

A special service was also held in Somerset, where Mr Bigley had previously lived.

His son Paul, who died in a road accident in 1986, is buried in the local churchyard near the family's former home in East Huntspill.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool, Patrick Kelly said the city's residents, from all faiths, were united in solidarity with the Bigley family.

"There has been a joint statement by the leaders of all the faiths. We walk together," he told BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme.

Speaking on Frost, Dr Daud Abdullah of the Muslim Council of Britain said he was "horrified" at the kidnappers use of Islam as a justification for the murder of Mr Bigley.

He said Ken Bigley could "at best" be described as a prisoner of war.

"The killing of a prisoner of war is not allowed in Islam," he said.

Family agony

Mr Blair has contacted Mr Bigley's family in Liverpool to offer his condolences.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw revealed on Friday that the British government had been in contact with the hostage-takers through an intermediary in the days leading up to his death.

Mr Bigley's son Craig, 87-year-old mother Lil and brothers Philip, Stan and Paul had campaigned hard for his release.

On Friday they said they had received "absolute proof" that he had been "executed" by his captors.

His wife Sombat Bigley said: "No words can express the agony I feel for the loss of my husband Ken."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch Liverpool pay tribute to Ken Bigley




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