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Family 'proud' of anti-IS Briton

The family of former Royal Marine Konstandinos Erik Scurfield say they are "devastated" that he has been killed while fighting against Islamic State in Syria.

Mr Scurfield, 25, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, was reportedly shot dead on Monday while fighting alongside Kurdish forces in the frontline village of Tel Khuzela.

In a statement issued through the Foreign Office, his family said: "We are devastated to confirm the death of our son Konstandinos Erik Scurfield in Syria where he went to support the forces opposing Islamic State.

"His flame might have burned briefly but it burned brightly with love, courage, conviction and honour and we are very proud of him."

Mr Scurfield, who was an expert in battlefield medicine, is the first Briton to be killed while fighting IS in Syria.

He is believed to have travelled to Syria three or four months ago hoping to provide medical and humanitarian support.

Mr Scurfield was said to have been "horrified by the atrocities being carried out by IS".

His family asked for privacy as they grieve for him at their detached former farmhouse in the village of Royston, South Yorkshire.

Neighbours described their shock at the news of his death.

David Miller said Mr Scurfield's parents Chris and Vicci are archaeologists and his sister Georgianna is a student.

Dr Miller described Mr Scurfield's death as "tragic", adding: "The children moved away and I'm not sure how Erik got involved in Syria but it would be in keeping with their sense of duty and honour.

"They are good British people and it would make sense that he would go all the way to Syria to fight against Isis."

Mary Jane Hemmings said the news was "heartbreaking".

She said: "I've been so shocked. I really am terribly, terribly upset.

"It doesn't surprise me that he went because he seemed to do everything 100% and he seemed to have deep feelings. He was very conscientious, he was a lovely person."

She added: "He was a very strong-willed man, I would say, and he knew what he was about. I am sure he knew what he was doing."

Mr Scurfield's parents had recently spoken to Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis about their fears for their son's safety.

The Labour MP, who raised the issue in Parliament last month, said their "worst fears had been realised".

He said: "My first thoughts are with the Scurfield family. They came to me a few weeks ago very worried for their son's safety and tragically it appears their worst fears have been realised."

Mr Jarvis added: "Erik was an experienced former Royal Marine who was horrified by the atrocities being carried out by Isis.

"His family's understanding was that he travelled to Syria hoping to provide medical and humanitarian support as an expert in battlefield medicine."

Mr Scurfield was named yesterday by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

A statement on the Kurdish Question website read: "We can confirm that Konstandinos Erik Scurfield died in battle, probably in Hasakah although the full details are yet to be announced by YPG."

Mark Campbell, a pro-Kurdish rights campaigner, said he broke the news to Mr Scurfield's mother.

He said: "It was just awful, to be honest. Just to receive a phone call with that sort of news was just devastating.

"It was so incredibly difficult, it was very, very emotional, she was literally in tears the whole conversation.

"I really just wanted to inform her, to give her a message from the YPG that they have said they would love to bury Konstandinos as one of their comrades in arms, as a hero, but equally they also want to be guided by the family and will respect the wishes of the family."

While high numbers of foreigners are known to have joined IS, around 100 Westerners - including several Britons - are thought to have fought alongside the Kurds.

Last month, a 19-year-old serving British soldier was returned to his unit after joining the Kurdish peshmerga.

It was reported that he left his base after telling his family he was joining the Kurdish military forces in their battle against IS because ''these guys need our help''.

In a letter to his family he claimed to have met other British people and a Canadian while there.

In December it emerged that two former British soldiers had travelled to Syria to fight against IS after feeling ''compelled'' to take up arms following the murder of aid volunteer Alan Henning.

Mr Scurfield studied drama at New College Nottingham, completing a diploma in performing arts in 2010.

A spokeswoman for the college said: "Staff here at New College Nottingham are deeply saddened to hear the news of the death of former student, Konstandinos.

"He was with us for two years from 2008 to 2010, during which time he successfully completed a Level 3 Performing Arts BTEC Diploma.

"Our staff remember him fondly, he was an excellent student and a popular, well-liked young man. Our deepest sympathies are with his family and friends at this difficult time."

Raising a point of order in the Commons this afternoon, Mr Jarvis asked how the House could put on record its condolences to the family of Mr Scurfield and read out the message from his parents.

He added he had raised the matter three weeks ago with the Foreign Office and had not received a response.

He said: "Given the serious nature of this particular issue I would ask for your guidance on how I can best raise a response from ministers so that together we can underline the grave dangers that face anyone who seeks to travel to Iraq or Syria."

Responding, Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing said: "May I first say on behalf of the whole House that I'm sure everyone in the House joins me in sending to his family our most sincere sympathy at the loss of this brave young man."

She added Mr Jarvis ought to have a "timely reply".

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