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Thanksgiving service hears tributes to journalist Austin Hunter

A former BBC journalist and newspaper editor who covered troubled and peaceful times in Northern Ireland enriched the lives of many, his son told a thanksgiving service.

Austin Hunter, 64, was knocked down and killed in a road crash in Bahrain earlier this month. The family man was always willing to help people and often sported a big smile, friends recalled. He had been editor of the Belfast Newsletter and more recently was involved in public relations work.

The Co Tyrone born father-of-two was on business in the Middle East when he died. The suspect was arrested.

Mr Hunter's son Simon delivered a tribute before well-wishers, who included Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster, at a packed Second Comber Presbyterian Church.

"Dad, thank you so much being in our lives, thank you for enriching the lives of so many. More than you probably ever knew. We'll never forget you. And we'll make sure your grandchildren don't either.

"Dad once told me 'always leave them wanting more'. He certainly succeeded in that himself."

In a career spanning 45 years, Mr Hunter held a range of influential jobs in media and public relations, including as a director at the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

He worked at the BBC as a television and radio reporter and edited the Newsletter between 2004 and 2006.

In recent years he worked overseas as a media consultant for Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas (NI-CO) - an organisation that sends local experts to advise state bodies abroad.

He was on assignment with NI-CO in Bahrain when the crash occurred.

Mrs Foster, Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt and senior police officers were among the mourners.

Mr Hunter leaves his wife of 42 years Jean, his daughter Rachael, son Simon and brother Adrian.

Simon Hunter said: "We're all hurting. I never want this feeling of devastation to visit anyone else's door. We've been flattened. But we must rebuild. And the first person to say that would have been dad.

"Every message, every hug, every cup of tea is a little tiny brick. And brick by brick, wall by wall, with your help we will rebuild. It will be tough and there are dark days ahead but with support we will continue to live the life my dad would have wanted. We cling to that."

Throughout his life Mr Hunter believed in keeping your chin up, treating people the way you would like to be treated and doing anything you can for family and friends.

His son added: "He always taught us that the person who opened the door was every bit as important as the one behind the walnut desk.

"That's been reflected in the support we have received from absolutely every aspect of dad's life. I ask that you continue that support for as long as you can because we will need it."

He was a keen cricket fan.

A mentor and confidant to many during his long career, the consummate professional loved nothing better than building Lego with his grandchildren in his time off.

Mr Hunter said his father had a wonderful career, worked for some fantastic organisations, alongside some extremely talented people.

"But it was the fact so many tributes mentioned what a good man he was, his big smile, his willingness to help people. Those were the lines we enjoyed, those are the memories we will hold dear."

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