Kiwi's new life ended by murder in Libya

TESSA JOHNSTONE
Last updated 08:35 06/01/2014

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A Wellington mother-of-two and her partner were preparing to start a new life in a new home when an adventure turned to tragedy.

Lynn Howie, 47, and her British partner, Mark De Salis, were found dead near Sabratha, 65 kilometres west of Libya's capital, Tripoli on Thursday.

Details surrounding the deaths remain vague, but a photo being circulated by Libyan media show the couple were shot while enjoying a romantic picnic on the coast. It has been reported that their car and belongings were not taken.

Ms Howie lived and worked in New Zealand but was visiting Mr De Salis. They had planned to travel on to London when they were killed.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was working closely with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Libyan authorities to establish the circumstances around the deaths.

"An investigation by the Libyan authorities into the deaths is under way and we will be following this closely on behalf of the family."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it has been told there have been no arrests by Libyan police, contrary to Libyan media reports yesterday. An investigation was under way.

The spokesman said out of respect of the family, who had asked for privacy, he could not give details about when Ms Howie's body was due to arrive home.

A friend of Ms Howie, who did not want to be named, said the couple had bought their first home together and were planning a move to the Hutt Valley in the next couple of months.

"Lynn was a wonderful woman who adored her boys. She would not do anything to put herself knowingly in harm's way.

"She had a love of life and experience and family and friends," the friend said.

Ms Howie had met Mr De Salis about six months ago, and the friend described their connection as "instant", having seen the two of them together in Wellington in November.

"We had only met him the once but he doted on her during the brief time we spent with them . . . [Lynn] was excited about their future together."

Ms Howie worked in the health sector, including roles with Ministry of Health and Regional Public Health. She had been a volunteer event medic with both St John Ambulance and Wellington Free Ambulance.

A Wellington Free Ambulance spokesman said the organisation's sympathies were with the family but it did not want to make a statement.

Ms Howie had been studying towards a bachelor of nursing at Whitirea Community Polytechnic.

She had previously studied at the University of Birmingham in England, where she had obtained a Master of Science degree in environmental health in 2006, the Daily Mail reported.

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She also obtained a Bachelor of Science in environmental biology at Nene College Northampton, where she studied between 1986 and 1989.

Mr De Salis had been working as a business manager in Tripoli for six years according to a family statement released through the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which described him as a "decent and incredibly loyal man". "The family of Mark De Salis are shocked and devastated to hear about Mark's death in Libya. Mark enjoyed his work in Tripoli and liked the Libyan people," it said. "He will be sadly missed by his family and friends."

The Daily Mail also reported De Salis as being married at the time of the shooting.

His wife Karen, 48, was based in Cornwall, where she worked as a personal assistant at the restaurant of TV chef Nathan Outlaw.

The website of the double Michelin-starred restaurant said she moved to Libya in 2007 and returned to the UK in 2011.

Last night Mrs De Salis confirmed her husband was an ex-RAF officer, but said her family did not want to add anything more.

It was unknown whether or not they were still together or were estranged.

A UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said an official was liaising closely with the Libyan authorities on following up the shootings.

"We call upon the Libyan Government to carry out a thorough investigation in to this tragic incident and to continue to do all it can to bring to justice the perpetrators of this appalling crime, as it strives to build strong rule of law in Libya."

There are five New Zealanders currently living in Libya, and MFAT advises of extreme risk for those travelling in the country, due to the significant threat from terrorism and kidnapping and advises against all travel.

Last month a teacher from the United States was shot dead while out running in Benghazi - the UK Foreign Office said at the time that further attacks against Westerners were likely and could be opportunistic.

- The Dominion Post

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