Woffles Wu's cousin killed by Taliban
Thu, Aug 26, 2010
The New Paper

Victim is cousin of local surgeon Woffles Wu

THEY were cousins who met just once - eight years ago.

But the impression that Dr Karen Woo, 36, made on well-known local plastic surgeon, Dr Woffles Wu, 49, was an indelible one.

The 2002 meeting at Dr Wu's house in Singapore took place after his British cousin e-mailed him.

It was a happy first meeting, with the cousins animatedly discussing their medical aspirations and surgical careers.

However, they did not stay in touch beyond an e-mail or two after that initial reunion.

Tragically, they will not have another chance to become better acquainted.

Dr Wu found out his cousin, an aid worker, had died. She was shot dead by the Taliban in Afghanistan earlier this month.

The Briton was among 10 aid workers killed by gunmen in an ambush in a remote area of northern Afghanistan. They were robbed and killed, execution-style. The group had been mistaken for Christian spies, reported British newspaper the Daily Mail.

The BBC reported the group had been working with Christian charity, the International Assistance Mission, to provide medical care in the villages.

While Dr Wu declined to speak to The New Paper on his cousin's death, he wrote about her in a personal column in this week's issue of entertainment magazine, 8 Days.

"I was horrified and deeply saddened that such a young, noble and heroic life had been cut short just like that.

"I was devastated," he wrote.

In the piece, Dr Wu had also recalled his childhood, growing up in London. It was there he shared many fond memories with his uncle Bert, who would later became DrWoo's father.

But Dr Wu declined to reveal to The New Paper exactly how Dr Woo or his uncle were related to him.

Over the years, he found out that his uncle had married and had three children.

It was only in 2002, when Dr Woo dropped him an e-mailthat the two cousins linked up again.

She had written to him as she was about to become a surgeon and wanted his take on a career in that field.

The two arranged through e-mail messages to meet in Singapore at Dr Wu's house.

Dr Wu wrote: "When she came to our house, she was as delightful as she had sounded (in the) e-mail.

"She was tall and beautiful with long radiant hair and possessed a confidence and assured air about her. Her eyes sparkled and she was so vivacious.

"She seemed so caring and considerate to all around her."

The reunited cousins spoke for "many hours", on the pitfalls and rewards of a surgical career.

Dr Wu told her of his volunteer missions to Myanmar, Java and West Timor, to help children with cleft lips.

Dr Woo, in turn, shared her dreams of helping the poor. She also told him she was involved with a volunteer group which sent doctors to war-torn areas.

The two e-mailed each other subsequently and DrWu last heard that his cousin had qualified as a surgeon and was working in Britain. But they lost touch later.

So, it was a rude shock for Dr Wu when he found out about his cousin's death.

His text: "I did not know how to respond. I was absolutely numb."

Initially unable to reach his uncle despite calling, he trawled the Internet to find out more about his cousin.

He discovered, for instance, from a report in The Guardian that Dr Woo had left her well-paid position as an assistant medical director of private health-care firm Bupa at the end of last year, to go to Afghanistan.

From her blog, he read that she "was nearly penniless but was enjoying the satisfaction her new job brought her".


Dr Woo was killed just days before she was about to marry a Mark Smith, who worked for a security firm in West London, on Aug 20.

Wrote Dr Wu: "How utterly and awfully tragic."

The online photographs of his cousin also affected him badly.

He penned: "Her beautiful face framed by a delicate shawl leapt out of the screen and looked as it did on the night she sat in my house having dinner."

Dr Wu managed to get in touch with Dr Woo's family recently - they had left their home to escape the media's attention.

His uncle rang him when Dr Wu was just about to board a plane in Seoul then.

He wrote regretfully: "How had we let 40 years slip away so rapidly? In that time, a beautiful woman had grown up and died.

"I reminded him of those old times and he laughed. And then he cried. And so did I. In the middle of the Seoul airport."

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