Page last updated at 09:28 GMT, Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Profile: UK journalist who died in captivity in Lebanon

Alec Collett
Alec Collett was on a writing assignment when he was snatched

Tests carried out on human remains excavated in Lebanon last week have brought an end to the 25-year search for kidnapped Briton Alec Collett.

In March 1985, the freelance journalist was travelling through the streets of Beirut when he was snatched at gunpoint.

Palestinian militants stopped the car at a roadblock close to the city's airport and pulled out him and his driver.

The driver, an Austrian national, was released shortly after but Mr Collett was never seen alive again.

The married 64-year-old was in the country to visit Palestinian refugee camps for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

During the three-month assignment, he was expected to pass information to the international media on potentially major stories.

It was not the first job he had done for the UN.

The previous year he had worked on a similar assignment in the Middle East, and before that he spent three years in Ghana as director of the UN information centre in the capital, Accra.

He also worked at the UN bureau of the Associated Press and wrote for the Times of Zambia and the Botswana Guardian.

'Proper burial'

British-born Mr Collett was living in New York with his American wife Elaine and their 11-year-old son, Karim, at the time of his disappearance.

It is understood he also had two adult children from his first marriage.

In an interview in 2005, Elaine Collett told the UK's Times newspaper: "I want Alec's remains recovered so we can give him a proper burial. All of us would like that."

Alec Collett was the first UN employee to be kidnapped in Lebanon.

The organisation tried three times between 1995 and 2000 to find his body and there have been numerous false alarms.

In 1986, on the day that TV journalist John McCarthy was kidnapped on the way to Beirut airport, there were news reports that three bodies had been found in the city - one of whom was believed to be Mr Collett.

Retaliation

But a day later, the third body was identified as an American, Peter Kilburn.

That same year, a militant Palestinian group - the Abu Nidal organisation - claimed to have killed him in retaliation for US air raids on Libya.

A video showing the hanging of a hooded figure said to be Mr Collett was released, but the victim was never officially identified.

The search last week by a British team of military and intelligence specialists was reportedly the result of a tip-off.

DNA tests showed the human bones found in the Bekaa Valley were those of Mr Collett.

In 1986, the United Nations Correspondents' Association, an organisation for journalists based around the world, made him their honorary president, a title he has retained ever since.

And every year UN staff remember him during a day of solidarity for missing humanitarian workers at the organisation's headquarters in New York.



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