Derbyshire’s top coroner blasts Government at high-profile beheading inquest

Dr Robert Hunter.

Dr Robert Hunter.

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Derbyshire’s senior coroner has hit out at the Government during a high-profile inquest into the death of a British aid worker who was kidnapped and beheaded in Pakistan.

Dr Robert Hunter voiced concern after it emerged at the inquest that Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) staff had not received kidnap response training at the time of Khalil Dale’s abduction.

He also said he intends to write to the Government and the chief coroner with concerns over the disclosure and sharing of information for the inquest – which took place almost four years after Mr Dale’s death.

Mr Dale was abducted by masked men while working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Quetta, south-west Pakistan, on January 6, 2012.

Chesterfield coroners’ court heard his kidnappers wanted $30million for his return.

Passers-by found his beheaded body on the roadside on April 29, 2012, with a note stating he had been killed because the ransom had not been paid.

The Government and the ICRC do not pay terrorist ransoms.

Dr Hunter ruled Mr Dale, 60, was unlawfully killed while providing international humanitarian assistance.

The court heard the ICRC took the lead in negotiations to try and secure the release of Mr Dale and was supported by the Government.

Dr Hunter said: “At the time of the kidnap, there was no formal kidnap response training available to FCO staff.

“This does give me some concern as it wasn’t the first time a British national had been kidnapped and beheaded abroad.”

In a statement read out in court, Jonathan Allen, of the FCO, said the FCO and Metropolitan Police have since set up a training scheme for staff who may have to deal with kidnap situations.

Dr Hunter said he was “pleased” to hear this.

David Peppiatt, who leads the British Red Cross’ international division, told the court Mr Dale received security briefings and kidnap training before his posting to Quetta and was aware of the risks.

He also confirmed that Mr Dale – who had previously suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder following other humanitarian postings when he had been detained, tortured and witnessed the killing of two colleagues – received health assessments before going to Quetta.

Dr Hunter said: “Everything was done with regards to training to prevent Mr Dale’s abduction.

“There was no evidence to suggest he was physically or mentally unwell and that he was more vulnerable to being abducted.”

Summing up the inquest today, Dr Hunter said: “He (Mr Dale) was highly regarded by his friends, family and colleagues and driven by a sense of fairness and justice

“He shone a light in the darkness in very dangerous places.

“His friends, family and colleagues may think that light has gone – but it lives on in all the people he saved and released from suffering.

“He paid the ultimate price and I know he will never be forgotten.”

The court heard it remains unclear who kidnapped Mr Dale and what their motive was.

Dr Hunter said: “It was a professional abduction and Mr Dale was specifically targeted.

“It’s difficult to say whether this was a criminal abduction at the hands of a criminal gang for financial gain or whether this was a political abduction at the hands of terrorists.”

The inquest took place in Chesterfield because Mr Dale is buried in Derbyshire.

A number of tributes were paid to him during the start of his inquest on Tuesday.

Jane McLachlan, one of Mr Dale’s close friends, said: “He had a good sense of humour, he was loyal and supportive and he was a real gentleman.

“When he told me he was going to Quetta, he said it was the most dangerous place in the world.

“He told me he was prepared to put himself in danger for a good cause.”

Dora Montheith, another of Mr Dale’s close friends, said: “Khalil was a very hard-working man.

“He didn’t want to see any injustice and he could get very upset about things like corruption.

“I was so shocked when I found out he had been killed.

“I couldn’t believe it had happened.

“He was one of my life-long friends – we were very close.

“He was very happy working in Quetta – he told me it was his dream job.”

Anne Casey, Mr Dale’s fiancée, called him a “living legend”.

She added: “He had a strong humanitarian drive – he wanted to help other people.”

Ms Casey described Quetta as “the wild west of Pakistan” and added: “I was aware there were a lot of risks and he wasn’t naive about the risks.”

Ian Dale, Mr Dale’s brother, said he was a “very adventurous” man.

Mr Dale, who was born in York, grew up in Manchester and lived in Dumfries, is buried in Glossop.

He was awarded an MBE for his humanitarian work.