Highlands & Islands

Kidnap fears of Linda Norgrove's parents

The parents of Linda Norgrove, the aid worker killed in Afghanistan during a failed rescue attempt, had told her it was their "worst nightmare" that she might be kidnapped.

John and Lorna Norgrove have spoken for the first time about the kidnapping and death of their 36-year-old daughter.

Mr Norgrove said they were apprehensive about Linda going to the country and had tried to dissuade her.

The Linda Norgrove Foundation has been set up to promote causes she supported.

It will fund women and family-orientated schemes in the war-ravaged country, such as scholarships for Afghan women to attend universities and to set up children's orphanages and girls' schools.

At the time of her death on 8 October, Linda was working for American-based aid organisation Development Alternatives Inc (DAI).

She was kidnapped in the Dewagal valley in the Kunar province on 26 September while looking into the development of agricultural projects in the east of Afghanistan.

It was originally thought she had died at the hands of her captors during a US-led rescue attempt, but it has since emerged a US grenade may have been to blame.

A joint US/UK military inquiry into her death is currently under way.

Mr Norgrove said his daughter was a "very adventurous girl" and was determined to go to Afghanistan four years ago when she worked for the United Nations.

"At the time I said to her that our worst nightmare was that she might be kidnapped," he said.

Linda Norgrove

"But at the end we had to accept that she'd been adventurous, she'd done risky things before.

"We came to the conclusion that she was very capable of judging the risks and minimising them and she was far better at doing that on the ground in Afghanistan than we were at home on a croft in Scotland."

Mrs Norgrove said Linda took a long time to decide whether to go back to the country a second time.

"She knew I wasn't keen on her going back but there was no way as a parent I would stop her doing that," she said.

"I knew that she'd grown to love Afghanistan and love the people and I knew that that's where her heart was and she wanted to do humanitarian work there. I think that's what was so important to her and what she felt that she had to do."

The day the couple learned their daughter had been kidnapped, they had just climbed a nearby mountain.

"We came back to be met by the police who told us that Linda had been kidnapped and from then on it was an absolute emotional rollercoaster," Mr Norgrove said.

"It's very difficult to explain to anybody who's not been through it, but it felt like sometimes when you were busy and talking to people the pain almost seemed to go away and then it would just come in in floods of emotion.

"I got through that period to a certain extent by imagining the elation of meeting up with Linda when she returned home in Stornoway Airport and just imagining how that would be.

"So it came as an absolute nightmare to us two weeks later to have a visit from the police at three o'clock in the morning to say that she'd been killed in a rescue attempt."

Mrs Norgrove said the most difficult part was "not knowing what was happening" and "being told very little about what was happening to try and secure her release".

Speaking about the controversy surrounding his daughter's death, Mr Norgrove added: "We don't know what the outcome would have been if no rescue attempt had been made.

"We don't think anybody is ever going to have a really clear picture, taking into account both sides, whether it was better to mount a rescue attempt or to carry on negotiating for a ransom with extremely dangerous and militant criminals.

Linda Norgrove as a young woman (courtesy of the Linda Norgrove Foundation)
Linda Norgrove as a young woman enjoying activities overseas

"It would appear to us that the rescue attempt was so close to being a total success and at the end there is what appears to have been a human error.

"But we do think that it's very creditable of the Americans to own up that there's been a mistake when they could so easily have covered the whole thing up. We do think they deserve credit for that and we've obviously got to wait for the outcome of the report the American and British military are making."

His wife added: "We certainly don't want to enter the blame game. Linda is dead. There's nothing going to bring her back to us. We're just immensely proud of what she was doing in Afghanistan and we want to continue her work in some way.

"It's changed our lives completely and we feel we need to move forward and do something to help continue her work, her humanitarian work, and to this end we are setting up a charity."

Messages of support

Mr Norgrove said: "The best memorial that we can think of to her is to continue that work. So we're setting up a charitable foundation called the Linda Norgrove Foundation, the aims of which will be to undertake humanitarian work, initially in Afghanistan, aimed at helping women, children and families."

Linda's former colleagues in Afghanistan and DAI, the aid organisation she worked for, are helping with management and organisation of the charity.

"They will help us decide on the best way to spend the money and to help people," Mrs Norgrove said.

Speaking about messages of support the couple have received, Mr Norgrove highlighted one they had been particularly touched by.

He said: "It's just stunning I think. It's a quote from TS Eliot - 'Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go'."

The couple were speaking in an interview with a family friend which has been released to the media.

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