Prime Minister David Cameron describes murder of British aid worker David Haines by Isil as ‘an act of pure evil’, as Foreign Office works urgently to verify video released by extremists
Islamic State has released a video showing the beheading of British hostage David Haines.
It comes just hours after his family issued a public plea for his captors to contact them.
The Foreign Office said it was “working urgently to verify” the video and offering Mr Haines’s family support.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said: “The murder of David Haines is an act of pure evil. My heart goes out to his family who have shown extraordinary courage and fortitude.”
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He added: “We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes.”
Mr Haines, 44, was kidnapped last year as he delivered humanitarian aid in Syria.
His whereabouts were only revealed this month when he was shown kneeling in the sand, wearing an orange jumpsuit, in a video produced by jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) which also showed the murder of Steven Sotloff, an American journalist.
A masked man, who has become known as “Jihadi John”, said Mr Haines would be next if the West did not halt operations against Isil.
In the latest video, he is also wearing a orange jumpsuit and is kneeling on the sand.
It begins with a clip from David Cameron. A man believed to be Mr Haines then looks into the camera and says: “My name is Daivd Cawthorne Haines. I would like to delcare that I hold you David Cameron entirely responsible for my execution.
“You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State just as your predecessor Tony Blair did, following a trend against our British prime ministers who can’t find the courage to say no to the Americans.
“Unfortunately it is we the British public that in the end will pay the price for our Parliament’s selfish decisions.”
In a statement, the Foreign and Commonwealth said: “We are aware of the video.
“We are working urgently to verify the content. If true, this is another disgusting murder. We are offering the family every support possible.
“They have asked to be left alone at this time.”
Mr Cameron rushed back to Downing Street for crisis talks with his advisers, officials and intelligence chiefs on Saturday night. He arrived at No 10 just after midnight.
A spokesman said he would chair a COBR meeting on Sunday morning.
In the Haines family’s short statement – which was released earlier on Saturday by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – the British captive’s relatives said: “We are the family of David Haines.
“We have sent messages to you to which we have not received a reply.We are asking those holding David to make contact with us.”
No further details of their messages were released.
Mr Haines had worked for aid agencies in some of the world’s worst trouble spots, including Libya and South Sudan.
He was travelling in a car through northern Syria in March last year when he was abducted along with an Italian colleague, who was later released. He was working for a French aid organisation, Agency for Technical Co-operation and Development (Acted).
Mr Haines is believed to have been kidnapped by a gang which later sold him on to Isil.
His identity remained a closely guarded secret for 19 months in a bid to increase the chances of a negotiated release.
But the situation changed dramatically with the execution first of James Foley, another American journalist, and then Mr Sotloff with the subsequent appearance of Mr Haines in the second murder video.
MPs reacted with horror and anger to the reports on Saturday night.
Ed Vaizey, a government minister and Conservative MP, said he was “so sad and angry” to hear reports of Mr Haines’s murder.
Stella Creasy, a Labour MP and shadow minister, said she was “shocked and horrified” to see reports that Mr Haines had been killed. “Hoping mistaken but fear not,” she said.
Dan Jarvis, another senior Labour MP, said he was “sickened”.
Tim Farron, President of the Liberal Democrats, said: “My thoughts and prayers are with David Haines’ family and friends tonight.”
Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, said: “I am sickened at the disgusting, barbaric killing of David Haines.
“He was somebody whose only purpose was to help innocent people, themselves victims of conflict.
“That ISIL would choose to kill him says everything about their warped logic and murderous ways.
“Acts like this will not weaken but strengthen the resolve of Britain and the international community to defeat ISIL and their ideology.
“My deepest condolences and thoughts are with his family as they cope with this terrible crime. And the hearts of the British people will go out to them.”
Lord Dannatt, the former head of the Army, said the UK should respond by playing its role in the assault against IS promised by US president Barack Obama.
“What we absolutely need to do is not be cowed in any way by yet another foul murder of a hostage,” he told Sky News.
“But to develop the strategy into a sensible military campaign in coalition with regional players such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries in the area.
“We can support them to confront, attack and defeat the Islamic State jihadi fighters … and make sure this cancer is removed from the region before it spreads more widely.”
The United States also “strongly condemned” the killing.
In a statement, the White House said: “Our hearts go out to the family of Mr Haines and to the people of the United Kingdom. The United States stands shoulder to shoulder tonight with our close friend and ally in grief and resolve.
“We will work with the United Kingdom and a broad coalition of nations from the region and around the world to bring the perpetrators of this outrageous act to justice, and to degrade and destroy this threat to the people of our countries, the region and the world.”