KUCHING - It was a sombre atmosphere at the family home of hostage Bernard Then in Jalan Satok here, where his parents and siblings are coming to terms with his murder.
All the family wants now is for Then's remains to be brought back as soon as possible so that they can pay him the proper respects.
"The most important thing is to bring back his remains. We really hope the governments of Malaysia and the Philippines will expedite the repatriation so that we can do the final rites," his sister Sharon said.
With Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in Manila for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, she hoped he could push for the search and repatriation of her brother's remains to be done faster.
Speaking tearfully, she said the family would eventually want to know how and why Then was killed.
"At the moment we have nothing much to say. We are still very unsettled. We are not in the right frame of mind to talk," she said.
Then's brother Christopher said the family was informed of his death on Tuesday.
"For the last 188 days we lived with hope. With this dreaded news, we continue to pray for the repose of his soul. May he rest in peace.
"We ask that we be given the privacy to mourn our loss," he said.
He also thanked all relatives, friends and well-wishers for their prayers, thoughts and support over the last few months.
Then's father John described Then as a filial son.
"He was very obedient, a nice boy. Although he was working in Kuala Lumpur, he called us often to ask how we were doing.
"When the news of his kidnap came, we were at a loss," John said, adding that he last spoke to Then when he arrived in Sandakan for a holiday, a day before the kidnapping.
"I called him in the evening. He said he was waiting for some friends to have dinner. I asked him to take care and he said okay," John said.
A neighbour, who asked not to be named, said she knew Then as a helpful boy when he was growing up.
"He left to further his studies in Kuala Lumpur but whenever he came home, he would greet me if he saw me," she said, adding that she was shocked by the news of his kidnapping and murder.
Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem condemned Then's murder and called for justice, adding that the state government would look into providing assistance to the family.
He also called for a minute's silence to be observed for Then during the state civil service day celebration at the Borneo Convention Centre in Kuching.