The family of a Blackpool man who was killed when the plane he was travelling in was shot down over Ukraine in 2014 travelled to the Netherlands this week to speak in court, as four men stand accused of mass murder.
Glenn Thomas, 49, was among 298 passengers and crew who died in the Mayalsian Airlines MH17 crash.
His twin sister Tracey Withers, and nephew Jordan Withers, flew to the Netherlands this week to give victim impact statements at the trial of four pro-Russian rebels suspected of bringing down the flight with a heat-seeking missile on July 17 2014.
Russians Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, stand accused of 289 counts of murder.
Tracey, 57, from South Shore, said: “We want peace. We want the truth. Someone out there knows the truth. All we want is for someone to be held accountable for what happened.
“The past seven years have been difficult. Being a twin, Glenn was someone I thought would always be around. I never thought that he wouldn’t be here. It’s not something you think about. It’s not something you can forget.
“You do move on. But you do find it hard, because there are no answers. We probably won’t ever know the whole story. We can’t do anything but hope and pray that the truth comes out.
“Like Lockerbie, the Manchester bombing and Hillsborough, it’s something that carries on. We want peace; we want to be able to say ‘that’s what happened’ and to be able to move on. It’s always there in the back of your mind: Why did it happen?”
Glenn, a press officer for the World Health Organisation, was his way to a conference on AIDS when his Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight was shot down about 30 miles from the Russia-Ukraine border.
The attack was the deadliest of its kind, claiming the lives of all 15 crew and 283 passengers – including 80 children.
Victims included Joep Lange, a former president of the International AIDS Society, Dutch senator Willem Witteveen, Australian author Liam Davison, and Malaysian actress Shuba Jay.
Tracey said: “We don’t want to dwel on their last moments. We don’t want to think about what they must have been going through. But it’s always there.
“I spoke in court not just for my family, but for every family who lost someone. Afterwards, I felt a great sense of relief. It’s not just written on a piece of paper now. It’s out there in court – it’s real.”
She added: “Working for the United Nations, Glenn was all for helping people and making the world a better place. It’s hard to describe someone who walks into your life and changes it completely, but that’s the sort of person Glenn was. He was never too busy for someone. He made the most of his life.
“Nothing can ever bring Glenn back. But it’s the accountability we need to move on.”
Glenn’s nephew Jordan Withers, 30, from Longridge, said: “It has taken seven years for a chance to say our piece in court. Even though for the past seven years I have spoken to The Gazette a number of times about Glenn and about how I feel about the investigation, at no point did I have the chance to say in court how his death has impacted me and my family. You don’t even stop to consider it. You’re so busy trying to get justice that you forget how it affects you as a person.
“Big occassions like birthdays and Christmas will never be the same for us, because we’re always thinking of Glenn at that time. I personally have suffered anxiety, difficulties accepting what has happened, difficulties facing the unknown.
“When you lose someone in a tragedy like this, you can’t really comprehend it. You can’t ever really process it, because it’s such a shocking thing to happen.
“All I hope is that the court considers everything properly, the proper legal procedures are done, and the outcome is fair. I can’t honestly say that I hope the people who are accused are found guilty, because they might not be. It’s such a big case. It could go on for years. But I really would like to see someone held accountable.”
By : Wes Holmes – THE GAZETTE