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Father’s grief after soldier son is killed by bomb in Afghanistan

By Claire McNeilly

The grieving father of the young Northern Ireland soldier killed in Afghanistan at the weekend has told of his immense pride in his son and his “noble profession”.

Fighting back tears in the front room of his east Belfast home yesterday, Nigel Moffett said his eldest son, also called Nigel, died doing what he loved.

Lance Corporal Nigel Moffett (28), attached to the Light Dragoons Regiment, lost his life alongside Corporal Stephen Bolger, of 1 Para, a member of the Parachute Regiment following an explosion in Musa Qala, in Helmand province.

In an emotionally charged interview, Mr Moffett said Nigel’s death was the second tragedy to befall the family in just five years after he lost his wife Elaine, a mother of eight, to cancer in May 2004.

“We had great trouble with that,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

“There’s a complete difference between the loss of a mother and the loss of a son.

“The children nursed their mother, she passed away naturally and we learnt to deal with that.

“Nigel put himself in harm’s way, as is the case with all soldiers. But he chose the Army as his career and he loved it.

“My own tribute to Nigel is the same as to my wife; I will miss the empty chair.

“He wasn’t always here because he came and went but the chair will always be empty now and I will miss that.”

Mr Moffett said that Nigel, who was based in Swanton Morley, England, was “with his mother now”.

And he added: “I have lost two of the best people I have ever known.”

Nigel, one of eight children and two step-children, had been a soldier for seven years when he was killed on his fourth Tour of Duty.

He had twice served in Iraq and his recent deployment was his second operation in Afghanistan – before which he had come home briefly to Belfast for a one-day trip last November.

His 54-year-old father, a civil servant, said he knew the risks of war, but he was unprepared for the dreadful news he received on Saturday from his son Niall (27) who was contacted by the Ministry of Defence.

Heartbroken Mr Moffett said the family’s strong Mormon faith would help them come to terms with the fact that they will never see him again.

“My mother-in-law said ‘God could change things but he doesn’t’ and I just think that encapsulates the way I feel now,” he said.

“But I struggle. I have my beliefs which are set upon a rock but I struggle because it hurts a wee bit.”

Mr Moffett paid tribute to his son’s missionary work and his many talents.

“He was a good soul,” he said.

“He served in a mission for the church in Madagascar and spent 13 months doing missionary work. He loved the poor.

“He was gentle and he had a great sense of humour. He loved reading and painting.

“He was a good soldier. He loved the Army. The regiment loved him and he really loved the regiment. It’s a noble profession.”

Nigel Jnr — originally from the Holywood Road area of east Belfast — was a friend of Amanda Binnie, the widow of Corporal Sean Binnie, who recently died in Afghanistan.

The two soldiers were both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints. Bishop Victor Shearer said the young soldier’s death had caused devastation.

“I can’t believe two members [of the congregation] have been killed. It’s like lightning has struck twice,” he said.

Mr Moffett said that he and Mrs Binnie “shared a moment” when she visited the family on Saturday to pass on her condolences.

Nigel is survived by his father, stepmother Carol, siblings Niall, Rachel, Owen, Paul, Kevin, Miriam, Hannah and stepsisters Carolyn and Michelle.

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