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Friday, 25 February, 2000, 16:06 GMT
Lib Dems mourn lost councillor


Mr Pennington and his late fiancee's daughters


Leading Liberal Democrats and local activists have paid tribute to party aide Andrew Pennington who died following a sword attack at an MP's surgery.

Party leader Charles Kennedy and his predecessor Paddy Ashdown joined about 750 mourners at the Cheltenham remembrance service for Mr Pennington, a local councillor.


I was proud to be in politics with him

Paddy Ashdown
Former party leader
Mr Pennington, 39, died after a man wielding a sword entered a regular constituency surgery being held with Cheltenham MP Nigel Jones. Mr Jones, who was also injured in the attack, attended the service.

The mourners were led by Mr Pennington's father, Harold, and his sisters. Mr Pennington will be buried on Monday in the same plot as his late fiancee, Jan Innes, who died from multiple sclerosis six years ago.

'Sad day for party'

Charles Kennedy said: "This is a very sad day indeed for the party as a whole and in particular for relatives, family and friends of the late Andrew Pennington.

Nigel Jones: Also attacked
"He was a tireless worker and represented all that was best about civic commitment.

"That he should be lost in such dreadful circumstances is beyond comprehension."

Paddy Ashdown, who knew Mr Pennington personally, described the councillor as a "wonderful old gossip" and a "terrier who very rarely failed".

"I was proud to be in politics with him," he said.

"It is a loss to the Liberal Democrat Party, and a loss to the profession of politics."

Family tributes

Mr Pennington's sister, Ruth, said that she was still "troubled every day" by the brutality of his death.

"Andrew was a sensitive and gentle person who abhorred violence of any kind," said Miss Pennington.

Paddy Ashdown (left) and Charles Kennedy
"I know how absolutely terrified he would have been as the assailant began his attack. This was the first and only fight in his life and he stood little chance."

She said that he had become transformed when he met his late fiancee who he had planned to marry.

Miss Pennington said: "Andrew was absolutely devastated by Jan's death.

"Sadly they never made it to the altar."

Mr Pennington took on the care of his fiancee's daughters, Sam, Kayte and Vicci Russ, following her death in 1993.

In a statement the three women said: "Never have we met or shall we meet again someone with a heart so big.

"Andrew's love, kindness and consideration for our mum is what kept her going when things got really bad for her.

"Although mum and Andrew were not together for a lifetime, the love between them was equally as strong. They now rest in peace together."

Mr Pennington's family asked for donations in his memory to be made to a trust fund in his name, which aims to help children leaving care.

Robert Ashman, 49, of Lansdown Place, Cheltenham, has been charged with the murder of Mr Pennington and is awaiting trial.
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