16 November 2023

British aid worker was unlawfully killed, coroner rules

16 November 2023

A British aid worker shot dead after being caught up in a gun battle between police and “bandits” in Nigeria was unlawfully killed, a coroner has ruled.

Faye Mooney died along with her boyfriend, Nigerian national Matthew Oguche, during the attack on April 19, 2019 at Kajuru Castle, a resort in northern Nigeria’s troubled Kaduna state.

Ms Mooney, 29, from Manchester, who worked in the Nigerian capital Abuja, for US aid agency, Mercy Corps, had gone to visit the resort, which was in a dangerous area of the country, Manchester Coroner’s Court heard.

The inquest, concluding on Thursday, heard Ms Mooney had an extensive career in international aid, having worked previously in Kurdistan and the Balkans.

Dyah Audu, the security manager for Mercy Corps in Kaduna state at the time, said the day before she was killed was Maundy Thursday, and he and Ms Mooney wished each other “Happy Easter” as the office closed for the holiday weekend.

We ask the new Foreign Secretary David Cameron to use his influence to help us get the basic answers we are still waiting for

The following day, Good Friday, at around 11pm, he got a phone call telling him a “white lady” had been killed at Kajuru Castle.

Later he went to identify Ms Mooney’s body and spoke to local police, who told him about the attack.

He suggested the gunmen, whom he described as “bandits”, were on their way elsewhere but took the opportunity to attack the resort until they faced resistance from armed police on scene.

Mr Audu said there was “no way” he would have approved any trip to the area of Kajuru, but as this was a weekend and not a Mercy Corps work-related trip, his advice would have been only advisory and not compulsory and staff had freedom to travel in non-work hours.

Det Chief Inspector Ben Cottam, of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said the information he had was that the resort was approached by around 10 individuals who entered the grounds, possibly armed with AK47 machine guns.

A gunfight broke out with two armed policemen, who were acting as security for the resort and Ms Mooney and her boyfriend left their room.

“Sadly, they were both caught with gunfire during this,” DCI Cottam added.

He said information suggested the raid was motivated by “kidnap and ransom”, which had been a problem in that part of Nigeria.

Coroner Zak Golombeck, concluding the inquest, said: “It is unclear as to the motive of this particular attack on the resort. However, there is no evidence before me that this was terrorism related.

“Faye was sadly shot, together with her boyfriend, and both died from their injuries. And Faye died from gunshot wounds to her chest and abdomen.

“Taking into account all of the evidence, I’m therefore satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that Faye was unlawfully killed.”

“It’s clear that Faye was an altruistic, caring person and I think someone who could be described as a true humanitarian.”

After the hearing Ms Mooney’s family said they still had questions over her death and they felt “badly let down” by the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office.

Their statement added: “Our family were told in 2020 that a suspect had been detained by Nigerian authorities and had confessed to being part of the armed gang that murdered Faye and Matthew.

“We still don’t know whether the suspect has been charged.

“The circumstances of Faye’s murder are brutal and complicated, and we are pragmatic about the probability of justice.

“However, as Faye’s family who loved her dearly and miss her every day, we ask the new Foreign Secretary David Cameron to use his influence to help us get the basic answers we are still waiting for.

“We remain determined to get as close to Faye’s truth as possible.”

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