Stevenage doctor Karen Woo killed saving others inquest hears

Karen Woo, the Stevenage doctor killed in Afghanistan by Taliban last year, was gunned down after helping 2,000 people, including saving the life of a baby boy, an inquest into her death heard this afternoon.

The family and fianc� of the 36-year-old former Barclay School pupil sat in the Herts coroner’s court on Wednesday afternoon to hear how she had died at the hands of gunmen in a remote mountainous region of Badakashan province on a mission to bring medical aid to some of the most deprived people in the world.

Coroner Edward Thomas said Karen had written excitedly of her 120 mile round trip with medical charity International Assistance Mission to help villagers desperately in need of medical help in July and August 2010.

“There are up to 50,000 people in the region, many who will travel to meet us,” she had written. “I am hoping to make a really big difference to the lives of people that live there,” adding: “The effort is worth it in order to assist those who live there.”

Karen was also in regular phone contact with her fianc� Mark Smith, making arrangements for their wedding which was to take place just days after her return from the country on August 20.

But after what Mr Thomas described as a great success - treating hundreds of villagers with a range of medical conditions from the minor to the life-threatening, the 11-strong team stopped at a river on August 5, on their return journey down the mountains to Kabul.

“It was at that time they were attacked with automatic weapons,” he said. “It’s clear from the post mortem report that Karen suffered two gun shot wounds which caused catastrophic internal injuries. She would have died instantly I’ve no doubt about that.”

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She was killed along with nine others of the mostly American team. One man survived and is at the centre of an ongoing FBI investigation into the atrocity.

Mr Thomas said the fact only satellite communication equipment was taken ruled out an attack by bandits and instead indicated insurgents, who killed them simply because “they were not happy they were there”.

“They were killed in an area where they were helping to support the population. The reason for being there was humanitarian. All of them lost their lives trying to make the area where they were medically better.”

Karen’s father Tehaun, of Brixham Close, said the inquest helped to draw “some sort of a line” in the process of trying to deal with her death, but added there was more to go.

“I’m grateful that she did what she always wanted to do, even when she was at a young age,” he said, before calling on the FBI to find her killers: “All the people responsible for this attack must be brought to justice.”

The coroner recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.