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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 December, 2004, 15:24 GMT
Funeral mass for Iraq aid worker
Margaret Hassan
Margaret Hassan had lived in Iraq for 30 years and married an Iraqi
A funeral mass has been held for aid worker Margaret Hassan, believed to have been murdered in Iraq.

Family and friends attended the service, in London's Westminster Cathedral.

As the Care International director's body has not been found, a picture of her was placed by the altar instead of a coffin.

Mrs Hassan, 59, had lived in Iraq for 30 years when she was abducted while travelling to work on 19 October.

She was married to an Iraqi, Tahseen Ali Hassan. He was unable to attend the service as he is too ill to travel.

Margaret was a much-loved wife, a much-loved sister, a much-loved aunt.
Family friend Patrick O'Ryan-Roeder

A message from the aid worker's family read during the service said: "She was brave, she was charitable, she was humble and hardworking.

"Yes, she was all of these things, but most of all she was our big sister."

After the service, family friend Patrick O'Ryan-Roeder said members of Mrs Hassan's family had been overwhelmed by messages of sympathy sent from all over the world.

He then added a brief statement of his own, saying: "Margaret's family should know that they left no stone unturned in their quest to secure her freedom.

'Cruelly taken'

"Margaret has been horribly and cruelly taken away from her close-knit family, a memory that I know they will never be able to forget.

"Margaret was a much-loved wife, a much-loved sister, a much-loved aunt.

"I know that our thoughts and prayers have always been with Margaret, and I believe they should also be extended to her immediate family as they try to come to terms with their devastating loss."

The BBC's Clarence Mitchell, at the cathedral, said it was a moving service, a tribute to her life as much as her funeral.

Her family wanted to have this requiem mass because this will be, in effect, her burial
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor

The memorial service was led by the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.

Ahead of the service, he told BBC News Mrs Hassan had been "a martyr to truth and goodness by her life of devoted service to the people of Iraq".

He said the requiem mass would reinforce her family's feelings that she has not been forgotten.

"One of the great sadnesses that her husband must feel is that there has been no recovery of her body," Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said.

"We know she is dead and this is why her family wanted to have this requiem mass because this will be, in effect, her burial - if not in fact, at least in mind and heart and memory."

Memorial service at Westminster Cathedral, London
The memorial service was led by the Archbishop of Westminster

Mrs Hassan's plight was brought to international attention after a videotape of her weeping and pleading for her life was broadcast around the world.

A second video sent to Arabic TV news channel Al-Jazeera showed a blindfolded woman, thought to be her, being shot.

Although Mrs Hassan's family believe she was killed, there has been no confirmation as no body has been found.

The 59-year-old's treatment caused outrage among ordinary Iraqis and around the world.

Tony Blair said it was "abhorrent", while Irish premier Bertie Ahern said her kidnappers "stand condemned by... the entire international community".

Mrs Hassan, who moved from Ireland to London at the age of four, had Irish, British and Iraqi citizenship.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Family friend Patrick Ryan pays tribute




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