The mother of Iraq hostage Ken Bigley was being sedated last night as the family held a vigil waiting in agony to hear news of his fate as the hours ticked by after the second American captive’s beheaded body was officially identified.
For months Elizabeth Bigley, whose maiden name is Kelly and who comes from Ticknock close to Stepaside, Dublin, has been praying her second eldest son Ken, 62, would heed the pleas of the family and flee Iraq.
“My mother has a serious heart condition; she is on pills which keep her alive and you can imagine the effect of the continuing agony is having on her,” said Mrs Bigley’s Netherlands-based son Paul yesterday.
Elizabeth Bigley last saw Ken during a big family celebration held for her on her 86th birthday on St Patrick’s Day in Liverpool, where she had emigrated to many years ago.
The close-knit family has visited his mother’s birthplace and seen relatives and friends in the village of Ticknock, near Stepaside.
“My mother is being comforted by my eldest brother Stan, he is a retired driving instructor, and my other brother Philip, who is 49 and a businessman; she has been bearing up as well as can be expected but we are gravely concerned for her well being.
“She is suffering from angina and the strain of the last couple of days has been enormous,” said Paul Bigley yesterday.
Paul Bigley has condemned British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s “scandalous handling” of the hostage crisis and “mismanaged policy in the Middle East and Iraq”.
“He only contacted my mother and our family, crying crocodile tears and cynically full of sympathy after we had gone public in the media denouncing the total lack of action after nothing had been done to try and have my brother freed,” Mr Bigley said.
“Blair is a sham and a liar; if my brother is executed his blood will be on Blair’s hands. They talked about not giving into the demands of terrorists but the two dead men’s lives and that of my brother could have been spared if Iraqi women prisoners had been seen leaving Iraqi jails in time.”
The renewed threat to Mr Bigley’s life came after official confirmation yesterday the second hostage to be beheaded by his captors was Ken Bigley’s other workmate Jack Hensley, whose 13-year-old daughter had pleaded in vain for his life to be spared.
News that a woman prisoner nicknamed Dr Germ, who was a senior biological weapons scientist during Saddam Hussein’s rule, was to be released yesterday was ‘a small light at the end of a very dark long tunnel’ said the Bigley family last night.
“It is a glimmer of light but nothing more.”
Elizabeth Bigley has had her share of tragedy in the past, losing her beloved grandson - Ken Bigley’s eldest son Paul - when he was just 17. Paul Junior was mowed down by a truck on his way to bank his pocket money in 1986 close to the family home in Somerset.
Hostage Ken Bigley had to take the agonising decision to have his clinically dead son’s life support machine turned off. In a bid to start a new life after the collapse of his marriage, shortly after the tragedy, he moved to the Middle East to join his brother Paul, who was running a successful contract engineering business working for big companies such as Shell.
“He lived in most of the Gulf states; we knew it was highly dangerous to stay in Iraq in the current climate; Ken promised this would be his last engineering contract and he would retire but he was determined to finish the job, he believed in the future of Iraq and its people and wanted to help them to rebuild their country,” said Paul Bigley.
“I believe personally he will be killed and then there will be two deaths in the family; the heartbreak will certainly kill our mother, we are gravely concerned for her too.
“Can you just imagine how an 86-year-old woman must feel knowing that at any moment her beloved son may be beheaded? He has done nothing; it is beyond anyone’s worst nightmares to even imagine such a scenario.”