MH17: Family mourn young Kiwi

21:00, Jul 18 2014

The family of British-born Kiwi Robert Ayley killed on MH17 is gathering in Wellington to mourn.

Ayley, 27-year-old father of two, was flying to New Zealand from Amsterdam on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was shot down over pro-Russia territory in eastern Ukraine about 3am yesterday, NZT.

The Boeing 777 is believed to have been hit by a surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 passengers and crew.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully yesterday said a British citizen who lived in New Zealand had been on the fatal flight.

Ayley, originally from Guildford in the United Kingdom, is thought to have been travelling on a British passport, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The Otaki man was travelling to look at Rottweiler dogs, which he imported and bred.

Ayley, his brother, and his parents, were now all New Zealand residents.

He and his wife Sharlene had two boys under five, who were now staying with Ayley’s parents in Tawa, The Herald reported.

British high commissioner Vicki Treadell said her embassy in Wellington was liaising with its people in Britain as well as Mfat.

"Our condolences go out in the first place to all of those affected by this tragedy . . . this is going to take a genuine international effort to get to the bottom of what happened."

A New Zealand woman who was living in Australia and her Dutch husband were also killed.

The couple, aged in their 50s, were on their way to New Zealand to visit family. Two British football fans were also travelling to New Zealand to support their team.

McCully said the New Zealand woman on the plane normally resided in Australia, and was travelling with her husband, a Dutch citizen.

Their names were not released yesterday.


McCully said he was unable to give further details, and could not rule out more Kiwis being among those killed.

The Russian ambassador in Wellington was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last night to hear New Zealand's objections to the shooting down. A spokesman for McCully said there would be no comment on the meeting.

A New Zealand diplomat in Moscow will go to the Ukraine. McCully said it was possible the diplomat would go into the rebel territory to see the crash site.

"There is a mounting body of evidence that this civilian aircraft was deliberately shot down using sophisticated ground-to-air missiles. If this is the case, then clearly a conflict that has largely been confined to the east of the Ukraine has dramatically escalated to claim casualties from around the globe."

McCully extended condolences on behalf of New Zealanders to the families of those on the plane.

"It is important that the matter be fully investigated, and we call for independent investigators to be allowed access to the crash site," he said.

Two Newcastle United fans who were travelling to watch their football team play in New Zealand were among the victims.

John Alder, known to fans as "The Undertaker", was on MH17 alongside fellow Magpies fan Liam Sweeney, 28.

Malaysian Airlines confirmed both names were on the passenger list, the BBC reported.

Alder, believed to be in his 60s, was well-known among Newcastle fans for always wearing a suit to games. He was also known for his mullet-style haircut.

The former British Telecom worker had only ever missed one game since 1973 and traveled to every away match.

Newcastle United released a statement saying they were saddened to learn two of the club's most loyal supporters had lost their lives on flight MH17.

Managing director Lee Charnley said the team's manager and players would wear black armbands for their upcoming games against Sydney FC and the Wellington Phoenix.

''The loss of John and Liam is truly devastating news,'' he said. ''Both men were dedicated supporters of our club and were known to thousands of fans and staff alike."

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said he and all the players were deeply shocked and saddened by the terrible news.

''We all knew how passionately John and Liam supported the team and the club,'' he said.

''Their dedication to travel all the way around the world to support us in New Zealand tells you all you need to know about the passion they had for Newcastle United."

Both Adler and Sweeney traveled to Amsterdam before boarding the Malaysian Airlines flight destined for Kuala Lumpur.

Newcastle United fan website said it was ''desperately sad'' to learn of their deaths.

''Our thoughts are with their friends, families and the many fans who knew them by sight. Watching Newcastle will never be the same again.''

Newcastle United play Sydney FC in Dunedin on Tuesday and the Wellington Phoenix in the capital on Saturday.

Malaysia Airlines said 154 of those on board were from the Netherlands, 43 were from Malaysia, including 15 crew, and nine were British.

Former prime minister Helen Clark and New Zealand Aids researchers were shocked at the news that 100 of the dead were medical researchers heading to Melbourne for an Aids conference.

The dead included former International Aids Society president Joep Lange.

Clark, who is attending the conference, which will still go ahead, tweeted: "Any of us could have been on that fateful flight. So tragic."

Several members of the NZ Aids Foundation are attending the conference.

Kiwi Mike Bullot, husband of 2012 MasterChef NZ winner Chelsea Winter, was counting his lucky stars yesterday after almost being put on the doomed flight.

Bullot was on standby for MH17, and ended up getting a seat on the previous day's flight a few minutes before the gate closed, otherwise he would probably have been on the downed plane.

"Too many what-ifs to think about right now," he wrote on Facebook. "Wondering how many of those behind me in line were pushed back a day."

Wellington Employment Court judge Tony Ford was travelling to Copenhagen, and was in Schiphol airport, Amsterdam, at the same time as the passengers of the ill-fated flight.

"This is all too close to home," he wrote in an email to his daughter, Janine Ford.

The Dutch embassy in Wellington said it received calls from New Zealanders and Dutch nationals worried about friends and relatives who might have been on board MH17.