BAGHDAD, Iraq – Kidnappers beheaded British hostage Kenneth Bigley after twice releasing videos in which he wept and pleaded with Prime Minister Tony Blair for his life. A U.S. official said Friday there was credible information that Bigley had tried to escape with the aid of one of his captors.
The attempt failed and Bigley was killed a short time later as was shown on a video of his beheading, the Washington official said. There was no word on the fate of his captor. A Western official in Baghdad refused to talk about the escape attempt report.
The 62-year-old civil engineer was the first British hostage killed in Iraq and the 28th overall. He was kidnapped three weeks ago, along with two American co-workers. They were beheaded earlier, and footage of their killings was posted on the Internet.
The capture of Kenneth Bigley had touched many Iraqis who saw the front-page newspaper ads and fliers his family put out. Many empathized with him as they saw him plead for his life on the released videos.
Bigley’s brother Phil read a statement on national television in Britain on Friday evening, saying: “We can confirm that the family has now received absolute proof that Ken Bigley was executed by his captors.”
Another brother, Paul, who led the family campaign and often criticized the British government for not helping, said that British Prime Minister Tony Blair had “blood on his hands.”
In a televised statement, Blair said: “I feel utter revulsion at the people who did this.”
Bigley, 62, was kidnapped along with Americans Eugene Armstrong, 52, and Jack Hensley, 48, from their home in Baghdad on Sept. 16.
The three men worked for Gulf Supplies and Commercial Services. Bigley planned to retire in a few weeks.
Armstrong and Hensley were decapitated within a week of the kidnapping, and their deaths were shown in gruesome videos.
The Monotheism and Jihad group of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. The group had demanded the release of all female prisoners from Abu Ghraib and Basra prisons. But British officials said they didn’t have any female prisoners, and U.S. officials said the two they had were “high-profile” prisoners who were being held at a special facility.
Immediately after Bigley’s capture, his family publicly called for his release. They said they opposed Britain’s involvement in Iraq, and they appealed to Iraqis to provide information that might help them.
Bigley’s captors released two videos of him before the beheading. In both he wore an orange jumpsuit and asked for Blair’s help. At times, he broke down in tears. On one tape he wept and buried his face in his hands when he talked about his 86-year-old mother, who he heard had been hospitalized for stress during the ordeal. A chain hung around his neck and feet.
At times, it appeared that Bigley’s release was imminent. On Sept. 27, Paul Bigley said that “something was happening” and that he was hopeful his brother would be released soon.
But Blair said, “There is no point in raising false hopes because of the nature of the people we’re dealing with.” He added, “We’re doing everything we properly and legitimately can.”
The British government said it doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, but it was open to talking to Bigley’s captors.
A group of Muslim clerics and Arab leaders pleaded for Bigley’s life, including Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.