Millions watched in horror as ISIS murdered my brother on TV – now I'm taking something back from them

MIKE Haines still remembers the exact minute he received the gut-wrenching news that his brother had been executed by ISIS.

''Taking that phone call at three minutes past 11 at night from the Foreign Office, telling me that David had gone, was the worst moment in my life – and then having to tell our parents was just terrible,'' he says.

The cowardly murder, at the hands of the Brit terrorist known as Jihadi John, sickened millions across the UK after it was shared in an ISIS propaganda video in 2014.

While Jihadi John – real name Mohammed Emwazi – was killed in a US drone strike the following year, David's death left Mike and his parents battling horrendous trauma, which had devastating consequences.

“In the 24 hours after I told him, my dad's dementia got so much worse that I lost 75 per cent of him," Mike, 54, explains.

"My mum never got over David's murder. And indirectly it led to her death – she basically faded away.''

Incredibly, despite his horrendous loss, Mike channelled his pain and turned it into a force for good – working to unite young lives across Britain and turn vulnerable teens away from extremism.

His story is one of many inspiring tales in Nine Secrets to Thriving, a new book by Emma Bell, a former judge who travelled the world talking to survivors of the most horrific atrocities imaginable.

The incredible stories include Brit Emma Slade, who was held hostage by gunmen during a terrifying raid in Jakarta, and Madeleine Black, who suffered a vile sex attack when she was just 13 years old.

“I'd been listening to stories of trauma and I remember on interview number six, I was sitting in the kitchen of the woman who had survived the Mumbai terrorist attacks," Emma says.

"She had witnessed her two friends being murdered and she was the only person at the table to get out alive. I just burst into tears during the interview. ”

“I thought, this is not my sorrow, this is hers but she immediately understood and it was amazing because tears kept on falling from my eyes.

"And it was her story and the cumulative effects about hearing the stories of trauma over such a short period of time.”

Here, Sun Online talk to three powerful subjects from the book about overcoming tragedy.

'ISIS took my brother – but we can take someone from them'

While Mike strives for positivity, the cruel, cowardly slaughter of his brother – who had two daughters, Bethany and Athea – still haunts him.

''At the moment I'm not a strong enough person to forgive. They stole a son away from my parents," he says.

''They stole a father away from daughters, they stole a favourite uncle away from my boys.''

David was executed on September 13, 2014 in Syria after being kidnapped while working as a British aid worker.

It crushed the hopes of his heartbroken family, who had been desperately working with intelligence services to locate him after he went missing in early 2013.

One day with maybe God's help, I will be able to be strong enough to forgive. But I can't forgive at present

Mike, who lives in Dundee, still clearly recalls the chilling moment he realised who had taken his brother.

''He was captured by a terrorist group and we didn't know who at the time," he says.

"He was held for 18 months, but on September 2 he appeared [on video] in the murder of Steven Sotloff, the American, and we knew he was there.''

In the aftermath of David's death, Mike admits he wanted to punish his brother's callous killers – but before long, he realised he had to let go of his hatred.

Much like David, he is determined to make the world around him a safer, kinder place – leading him to found Global Acts of Unity, a campaign promoting unity, tolerance and understanding in schools.

''I had such rage, anger, hurt," he says. "My instant desire was to strike out at [the killers], but very quickly I came to the realisation – and this was in minutes – that their act of murdering David and the other hostages was an act of hatred.

"It was an act of hatred and to create division.

''And I had to stand up against that. I could see what they were trying to do to the country that my family and I had served and are proud of serving.''

He adds: ''I truly believe we must tackle hatred head on.''

''While it wasn't an easy path to take, to channel that pain into a force for good, it has most definitely been the right one.''

''We must stand up to extremism wherever we find it. And it's not just about ISIS, it's about all extremism and all hatred. We must defeat those who seek to divide us.''

Talking at schools, universities and youth centres, he emphasises the importance of the future of young people – stressing that something positive could come out of ISIS's senseless and barbaric act.

His main goal is to reform vulnerable youngsters who are risk of joining extremist movements.

Talking to Emma Bell, he reveals he had a hand in stopping four extremists from joining terrorist groups and encouraging one gang member to leave his life of crime.

''ISIS might have taken my brother's life, but we could take someone away from them," he says.

From terrifying hostage trauma to new life as Buddhist nun

In another emotional case study from the book, we meet Brit Emma Slade, who had been working in Hong Kong in 1997.

On a business trip to Jakarta, she got a knock on her hotel door that changed her life forever.

''I opened my hotel door and there was a man with a gun," she says.

"He pushed it into my chest, pushed me back into the room, the door closed and there I was.

''I felt sheer terror. I just thought I was going to be shot there and then. I was pleading for my life.''

''Someone heard my screams, they alerted the front desk. In the end a whole load of police and army came.

"There was a point at which we opened the door while I had the gun in my back, and I decided to run and risk my life. I survived."

My body just took over. When they opened the door, I didn't know what was going to happen and I just thought I would be shot whilst running down the corridor

After the ordeal was over, Emma – who had been working in the country as a financial analyst – was eerily calm.

She even went so far as to phone her mum and say: ''Nothing to worry about mum, I've been held hostage at gunpoint but I'm okay now.''

''Most things in life happen and you know, I'd survived," the 54-year-old explains.

"Physically I had a few cuts and bruises, but I hadn't lost an arm or anything, so I thought I would carry on with my job with a stiff upper lip,''

However, before long things began to crumble.

Emma found she was having vivid flashbacks that became worse over time.

''I was hearing things, smelling things, the sense of his body near mine, seeing his clothes and shoes," she says.

"These kinds of things would come back to me in the daytime when I was trying to work. The trauma actually got worse over night.''

Inspriational tales of hope amongst the horror

After quitting her prestigious job as a judge, writer Emma Bell set out across the world to find out why some people thrive in the face of severe trauma.

Her new audio book, Nine Secrets to Thriving, interviews inspirational subjects such as Bjorn Ihler who was shot at by Anders Breivik during the 2011 Norway attacks, and Joseph Oubelkas, who was sentenced to 10 years in a Moroccan prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

One eye-opening moment came when Emma sat down with Kia Scherr, an American who lost her husband Allan and 13-year-old daughter Naomi in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. 

''At a news conference one of the journalists asked Kia how she could forgive the terrorists who murdered her husband and daughter and what she said was: 'There's nothing to forgive. The terrorists were doing the best they could with the thinking they had at the time'.

"For me, that was profound.''

Emma's book includes a total of 48 'tips' to thrive which can include anything from reaching out and helping others to just practising gratitude regularly.

During her time, travelling and hearing stories she made the comparison of muscles stating that we need to work at thriving like we would do press ups to develop our muscles.

''These people are incredible human beings and who have faced the worst of life and grown beyond anything I could have imagined," she adds.

Eventually, she returned to the UK after months of sleepless nights and was diagnosed with severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Her condition worsened over time, causing her to take time off work before getting proper treatment seven months later.

Following an intensive two week therapy retreat, she went back to her company, HSBC, but quickly found her career did not fulfil her.

She resigned in 1998 and immersed herself instead in yoga and meditation, travelling the world and finding a new path in life – as a Buddhist nun.

Drawing from her own experience, she wants to help other people who have suffered in life, and has founded a charity to help children with special needs in Bhutan, a country in the Himalayas.

''I think the general re-evaluation of the quality of kindness made me the way I am today," Emma, a mum-of-one to son Oscar, explains.

''I didn't care about earning a lot, I realised that's what I valued most, so I think that willingness to help others makes me grow.''

'Forgiving cruel sex attackers helped me to move on'

Aged just 13, Madeleine Black was horrifically raped by two boys.

After one of her friends' mums was away for the night, she and her pal took advantage of the free flat – but things took a hellish turn when they went out drinking and the two boys joined them back at the home.

''They threatened me, they told me they would kill me if I spoke about it," Madeleine, 54, says.

"I internalised it. I became suicidal, I developed anorexia, I had depression. I had all these fears, phobias and anxieties."

Trauma in your body takes over, it wasn't something I thought about. I just shut down, disconnected and put it far from my head

Three years after the incident, when her spiralling depression was picked up on by her mother, she decided it was time to tell someone her secret.

At the time, being so young and unable to replay the incident due to memory loss, she struggled to overcome her unresolved feelings.

In the troubling years that followed, she battled anorexia and drug use as a result of her trauma – before counselling and the birth of her three daughters helped turn her life around.

A defining moment for Madeleine was when her eldest daughter, Anna, turned 13 and she was able to begin to process what happened to her and confront it.

''Over time I had refused to be defined by what had happened to me, because I very nearly didn't become a mum and through the powers of social media I met an organisation called The Forgiveness Project.''

The charity helps to share stories from victims, survivors and perpetrators of crime who have rebuilt their lives following hurt and trauma.

The Forgiveness Project reached out to Madeleine and asked her to speak about her ordeal and how she felt towards her attackers.

''The forgiveness allowed me to let go," she says. "It gave me understanding because when I was fighting it, that didn't allow me to let go. It kept me in it. Where we focus is where our energy goes.''

''I was holding on to anger and revenge and hate and fantasising the same thing happening to them, so [forgiveness] really allowed me to let go.''

Madeleine – who is now married and a mother to Anna, 27, Mimi, 24 and Leila, 19 – now advocates for sexual violence survivors to be encouraged to tell their stories in safe spaces.

Her work is dedicated to eradicating myths around rape and consent.

''Now that I've found my voice, I won't be quiet," she adds.

9 Secrets to Thriving by Emma J. Bell is available now exclusively on Audible.


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