The family of a murdered British hostage killed during a rescue attempt to save him and an Italian colleague said they were “devastated” at his death in Nigeria but thanked those involved in the attempt.
News of the death of building firm contractor Chris McManus was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron, who authorised British forces to help raid the location where he was being held.
He said initial indications were the contractor, from north-west England, and his colleague, snatched by gunmen at the same time in May, were killed by their captors.
In a statement, the family of Mr McManus said: “We are of course devastated by the news of Chris’ death which we received earlier today.
“During this ordeal we have relied heavily on the support of our family and friends which has never waned and has enabled us to get through the most difficult of times.
“We are also aware of the many people who were working to try and have Chris returned to our family, and his girlfriend. We would like to thank all of them for their efforts.”
And they added: “We knew Chris was in an extremely dangerous situation. However we knew that everything that could be done was being done.
“Our thoughts are also of course with the loved ones of Chris’s colleague Franco Lamolinara, who are also coming to terms with this truly sad news.”
Mr McManus, a contract worker for the construction company B.Stabilini, was kidnapped by a “horde of gunmen” in May last year.
Raiders stormed his apartment in Birnin-Kebbi, in the north west of the country, and captured him and Mr Lamolinara. The men were in the city building a bank.
A German colleague managed to escape by scaling a wall but a Nigerian engineer was shot and wounded in the raid.
In December last year, a Nigerian group calling itself “Al-Qaida in the land beyond the Sahil” announced it had captured Mr McManus and released a hostage video which showed a blindfolded and bearded man in an orange vest, with three men in dark clothing stood behind him armed with rifles and a machete.
It was reported the man pictured in the video called for the British Government to respond to the demands of the group, so they would spare his life.
Mr Cameron said both the men’s families had endured a “terrible ordeal”.
“The terrorists holding the two hostages made very clear threats to take their lives, including in a video that was posted on the internet.
“After months of not knowing where they were held, we received credible information about their location. A window of opportunity arose to secure their release. We also had reason to believe their lives were under imminent and growing danger.
“Preparations were made to mount an operation to attempt to rescue Chris and Franco. Together with the Nigerian government, today I authorised it to go ahead, with UK support.”
He said further details of their deaths were awaited “but the early indications are clear that both men were murdered by their captors, before they could be rescued”.
Mr Cameron, who said he had spoken with Mr McManus’s family yesterday, voiced his thanks to the Nigerian authorities and President Jonathan, as well to the UK personnel involved.
And he added: “Our immediate thoughts must be with Chris and Franco’s families and we offer them our sincerest condolences.
“Both families have endured a terrible ordeal, and this is a devastating moment for all of them.”