ISLAMIC State fighters last night released a video apparently showing the beheading of British aid volunteer Alan Henning in retaliation for British air strikes against the jihadist group.
The video, posted on YouTube, appears to show Mr Henning, 47, kneeling on the ground, with a man in a black mask standing behind him holding a knife to his throat in a desert setting.
The hooded man, speaking in a London accent like “Jihadi John”, the killer of other hostages, makes a direct statement to Prime Minister David Cameron saying the blood of Mr Henning was on the hands of the British parliament.
Mr Cameron said: “The brutal murder of Alan Henning shows just how barbaric and repulsive these terrorists are.
“Alan had gone to Syria to help get aid to people of all faiths in their hour of need. The fact that he was taken hostage when trying to help others and now murdered demonstrates that there are no limits to the depravity of these Isil terrorists. We will do all we can to hunt down these murderers and bring them to justice.”
Other MPs were swift to condemn the apparent murder.
Liberal Democrat party president Tim Farron said: “Alan Henning should be remembered for what he was – a kind-hearted, selfless man who wanted to help others. My prayers are with his family.”
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jonathan Ashworth said the video emerged hours after a vigil for his safe return by people “of all faiths and none” in Leicester. “Dreadful, devastating news,” he said.
Labour’s Pat McFadden said it was the “senseless killing of an innocent man – an attack on humanity”.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are aware of the video and are working urgently to verify the contents. If true, this is a further disgusting murder. We are offering the family every support possible; they ask to be left alone at this time.”
The video, just over a minute long, which begins with an English language news report broadcast the night parliament voted to approve British air strikes, appears to contain a last message from Mr Henning. He introduces himself before going on to say that, as a member of the British public, he is now paying the price for the decision by the British parliament to attack Islamic State.
The video then appears to show a picture of the hooded man alongside another hostage, identified as former American soldier Peter Kassig.
The militant then warns US president Barack Obama that, since he started his aerial bombardment in Syria, it was justified to continue to “strike the necks of your people.”
The video warns Mr Kassig would be next to be executed.
If the footage is valid, Mr Henning would be the fourth westerner to be executed following the deaths of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and Scottish aid worker David Haines.
Mr Henning, a former soldier and taxi driver originally from Eccles in Greater Manchester, was captured by militants last December while on a mission to deliver aid to Syria.
After seeing what was happening in Syria, Mr Henning, married with a teenage son and daughter, volunteered with a Muslim charity and had been to the region at least three times.
He left in December 2013 to make the 4,000-mile trip to Syria. After his kidnap, it is thought he may have been held in Ad Dana near Aleppo, then Raqqa.
On Tuesday, in her first televised interview since he was captured, Barbara Henning said her family was “dreadfully concerned”. She also revealed she had received an audio message of her husband pleading for his life, and had been told that a sharia court had found him innocent of being a spy. She said: “I ask Islamic State please release him, we need him back home.”
She added: “Some say wrong time, wrong place. Alan was volunteering with his Muslim friends to help the people of Syria. He was in the right place doing the right thing.
“We are at a loss why those leading Islamic State cannot open their hearts and minds to the truth about Alan’s humanitarian motives for going to Syria and why they continue to ignore the verdicts of their own justice system.”
Meanwhile, Paul Cantlie, the father of John Cantlie, a British journalist being held by IS, has appealed for his son to be released and spoken of his family’s “despair and helplessness” after seeing him on a video released on the internet.
Speaking with the help of a voice aid from a hospital bed, Mr Cantlie said: “For the first time in almost two years, we saw John when he made a televised broadcast during which he told viewers that he was still a prisoner of the Islamic State and that maybe he will live and maybe he will die.
“As a family we experienced great relief seeing and hearing John and knowing that he is alive, but this was followed by the feeling of despair and helplessness.”
His son, who has worked for newspapers including the Sunday Times, was seized in northern Syria, where he had been working as an independent photo journalist, “seeking out the true story of the suffering of the Syrian people and ensuring the world was made aware of their plight”, his father said.
He spoke about the pride he has for his son, and said nothing would bring him “greater joy” than his release.
“Speaking entirely for myself, this is not how I had imagined I would be passing my 81st year. I want John to know how very proud I am of him,” he said.