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Murdered diplomat's widow gets OBE

Stephen Saunders' widow campaigned for the capture of his killers
Stephen Saunders' widow campaigned for the capture of his killers

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LONDON, England -- The widow of a British military attache killed by Greek terrorists has been honoured with an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for her tireless campaign to bring his killers to justice.

She is among those whose lives have been touched by tragedy and misfortune who are recognised in the Queen's New Year Honours List.

Brigadier Stephen Saunders was Britain's highest-ranking officer to be murdered abroad since 1945 when he was shot dead by members of the November 17 (N17) group in June 2000.

His wife, Heather, 45, was left to bring up their two teenage daughters Nicola and Catherine.

But she also campaigned tirelessly to bring the gunmen to justice.

She told the UK Press Association (PA): "I was very pleased and I thought (the OBE) was a mistake and they had got it wrong.

"I thought it must be for something Stephen had done but then realised they didn't give OBEs out posthumously.

"I am really grateful for other people who have helped me in this struggle.

"The Greek public law and order minister has changed the law to enable us to move forward and get information and the Greek authorities have done a lot to help.

"At the embassy Francesca Flessati, who used to work with Stephen, has really worked hard for me and helped me to keep this case in the public eye through the press."

She added: "It's rather nice that people have recognised the hard work but it has had its results and I hope other people will come forward and speak out.

"My speaking out was so hard but it really did help. It was a bit monotonous but I think people should speak out and say how they feel.

"Of course emotions make it very difficult but life does go on so now I have to smile. This honour is positive, it's something nice and makes me think it wasn't all in vain."

In August this year Savas Xiros admitted shooting the British diplomat.

Xiros was arrested after a bomb blew up in his hands in June. Within weeks police rounded up what they said was the core of the N17 group.

A separate award goes to the Rev Tim Alban Jones, who was highly praised for his pastoral work and care following the murders in August of 10-year-old schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

Of his MBE (Member of the British Empire) for his services to the community, Rev Jones told PA: "We have been touched by an act of evil but there have been acts of kindness as well and great goodness where people have come together."

He said his award was "recognition of the work of parish priests throughout the country day in and day out.

"I'm accepting I'm being given it on behalf of everyone else."

Also receiving an honour are Doreen and Neville Lawrence, parents of the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, who receive OBEs.

The couple founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust after their son was viciously stabbed to death by a gang of racists in an unprovoked attack in London in April 1993.

Baroness Howells, a race equality campaigner, said they had become "icons."

"Nothing will bring back Stephen but it's a recognition of their tenacity, and it will be a sign to the black community, another expression of hope," she added.



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