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2 August 2017, 12:41
An inquest's heard a young man from Chichester took his own life in Syria, to avoid being taken hostage by so-called Islamic State.
Former chef Ryan Lock, who was 20, travelled there to fight against the militants. He died in the city of Raqqa last December, considered to be IS's de facto capital.
Former chef Mr Lock, who had no previous military experience, joined the Kurdish militia after telling his family he was going backpacking to Turkey in August last year.
An inquest in Portsmouth heard that after being surrounded by IS fighters, he turned his gun on himself to avoid being captured and suffering a "frightening and painful death".
Recording a narrative verdict, Portsmouth and South East Hampshire coroner David Horsley said Mr Lock had sustained a wound to his leg that left him at risk of falling into the hands of a "cruel and ruthless" enemy.
Mr Horsley said: "He was not prepared to let that happen and used his own weapon to avoid capture. That can only be viewed as a brave action."
The coroner described Mr Lock as a "heroic young man" and added: "He died doing something he quite clearly believed passionately in."
Mr Lock's parents declined to comment following the hearing.
In the months before he died, Mr Lock had kept in touch with his family via Facebook Messenger, sending them pictures and updates on his military training.
But after losing contact with him last December, Mr Lock's father Jon Plater found images online of his son with an IS fighter standing over his body, and his death was later confirmed, the inquest heard.
Pathologist Dr Basil Purdue said Mr Lock's cause of death was due to a single gunshot wound to the head.
Mr Lock flew from Luton to Istanbul on Flight KK6004 on August 24 before boarding a connecting flight to Iraq.
Mr Lock's mother, Catherine Lock, told the inquest how her son had given few clues about his intentions to fight IS in Syria.
She recalled him remarking how bad the situation was in Syria after watching a television news item.
Ms Lock said: "It wasn't something he would constantly comment on, but he was quite a quiet person.
"He could be quite sheltered, and he would be quite careful what he said."
Ms Lock said her son only revealed a few days before that he was intending to go travelling.
She said: "He just said that he had planned this for ages and that he had time off work. He said he would be going for a few weeks, maybe a month.
"And when I found out he was going to Turkey I said, 'You do realise that's right next to Syria where there is a war'.
"I hadn't twigged that was exactly his plan, to head to Syria."
Ms Lock said her son became secretive before he left and spent a lot of time on his computer - and unusually tidied his room.
"That was one of the things that I really questioned," she continued.
"I actually said, 'Are you planning on coming back because you have spring cleaned your room?'
"Deep down, there were things setting off alarm bells but I wasn't getting the answers."
Mr Lock had been in Turkey for about a day when he contacted his mother to reveal that he was going to Syria to fight with the YPG.
Ms Lock said: "I remember sending him a message saying that's not even funny, and he said it was true. That's when I absolutely panicked."
She said her son tried to reassure her by saying the YPG needed a chef and that he wanted to be a medic.
She also tried not to be negative for fear of him ending contact with her, adding: "I remember saying to him, 'I'm proud of you but for God's sake come home safely'."
Ms Lock said she maintained contact with her son once a week or once a fortnight via his pay-as-you-go phone but did not say he was involved in combat.
She revealed the last contact she had with her son was last December 6, and as days passed without hearing from him, she heard from an American journalist about fatalities in Syria.
Then later Mr Plater came across images clearly showing his dead son on an Arabic website. Mr Plater said: "You could tell straight away it was him."
He added: "I phoned the YPG a few times to see what was going on, and I spoke to Ryan's commander who said that he was surrounded and that he shot himself."
Ms Lock said she had no respect for the YPG, saying: "I've always been angry towards the YPG because if it wasn't for them Ryan wouldn't be dead.
"They helped him to get to Syria. He would never have been able to get there on his own. From what I gather, it had been planned for quite a long time."
In a statement released through Hampshire police, his family said:
``The Lock family are devastated by the recent news they have received but have no comment to make.
``The family politely ask that the media respect their privacy and leave them in peace to grieve.
``The family have provided a photograph of Ryan as they would like to remember him; a loving and caring family member.''
The YPG said he had ``crossed continents for the destiny of our people and humanity''.
Ryan was a former student at Warblington School in Havant. In a statement, headteacher Julia Vincent said:
“We are very sorry and saddened to hear the news about Ryan Lock. “He was a well-liked pupil during his time at Warblington School. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family at this time.”