Sons pay tribute to 'hero' father

IT was a life of adventure which would be the envy of many - flying across the globe, building luxury yachts and even helping behind the scenes of a James Bond film.

IT was a life of adventure which would be the envy of many - flying across the globe, building luxury yachts and even helping behind the scenes of a James Bond film.

But family was always the most important thing in Mick Newman's life, and last night his sons paid tribute to him for the first time since he was killed in a plane crash in Turkey.

Describing him as their “hero and best friend”, George and Will Newman spoke of their pride that their 53-year-old father, from Benhall, pursued his dreams - and said they hoped to live their lives as he had done.

George, 22, said: “We cannot express how upset we are. Our family was the closest family I have known - Mick made a thing out of having dinner together every night when we were all at home.

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“He was a hero to Will and myself, and our best friend. We referred to him as Mick, not dad, as he was our friend.”

Mick died with his close friend, Pakistani national Zaka Ulab Bhamgoo , when his light aircraft crashed in a mountainous area in northern Turkey on Sunday May 13.

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The pair had set off from Trabzon airport and were heading to Iran en route to Pakistan when horrendous weather conditions closed in.

They were both experienced pilots with thousands of flying hours between them - for Mick it was a hobby he took seriously while 53-year-old Zaka, a brigadier, was a helicopter pilot in the Pakistani army.

They had planned for the “trip of a lifetime” for around three years and for Mick it was particularly important.

He gained his microlight licence ten years ago, built a Shadow microlight from a kit at home, converted a barn into a hangar and flew from a field at the back of his house to places all over the country, as well taking great pleasure in being able to nip to France for lunch.

He had met Zaka after travelling to Pakistan to supply a special undercarriage for the Shadow. He designed and built it himself - going through rigorous testing with the Civil Aviation Authority.

It was the start of a close friendship between the two families, with Mick taking many trips to Pakistan with his wife Wiss and falling in love with the country.

It was then the plan for the adventure was hatched and Mick bought a Sky Arrow 650T, gaining his licence and flying it across Suffolk as well as from Norwich International Airport.

George said: “It was the trip of a lifetime. He said to me, if I do not do this I have got to sell the Sky Arrow and re-evaluate my life as I am not living it in the way I want to.”

The trip, which was open-ended but was expected to take around three weeks, was originally planned for last year but had to be put on hold when Spirit Yachts, the yacht-building business Mick co-owned, was asked to supply one of its luxury boats for the latest James Bond film, Casino Royale.

The filming saw Wiss doubling for Bond girl Eva Green as she sailed the yacht along the Grand Canal, which had been closed to outside traffic for 350 years.

But on April 28 this year, Zaka and Mick finally set off on their adventure. They had already flown from Parham across France and Italy, into Turkey when the crash happened.

Perhaps a combination of the fact that they were heading to Iran, because they were British and Pakistani citizens and a slight disbelief that people would and could just fly to Pakistan from England in a light aircraft, fuelled intrigue into what they were doing.

Accusations surfaced that the pair were intelligence agents and that they were trying to import nuclear material into Iran for a weapons programme.

They have been strongly rejected by all who know Mick and Zaka, while George said he was called by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office yesterday, which also discredited the claims.

George said: “If Mick was here to hear those allegations he probably would have revelled in people thinking he was a spy. He probably would have started to introduce himself as Newman, Mick Newman.”

Will, 20, added: “For people who knew Mick and what he was like they knew it was laughable and could almost see the funny side. But it was another thing to deal with that just wasn't needed and it was hurtful.”

Born in Hertfordshire, Mick came to Suffolk at the age of 18 and settled in the county. He met Wiss when he was 24 and she was 19 and they married in the county soon after.

George said: “My mum and dad were as much in love as the day they got married. It never ran thin.”

But it is clear their father has also been a guiding influence in their lives.

George has pursued his love of sailing, which saw Mick buy his first yacht in his 20s and restore it from a wreck.

An “immensely skilful” sailor, he set up Spirit Yachts with business partner Sean McMillan 15 years ago from a cowshed at the back of the farm. The business has since moved to Ipswich and George, who has returned to Suffolk from his job sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, is to take over his father's business share.

Meanwhile, Will is training in New Zealand for his commercial helicopter pilot's licence.

George said: “Mick was very much an adventurer but the people he admired most were those with simple lives - those who were happily married and had close families - and he loved country life.

“He was a family man through and through. Family would come first in everything. Business was always second.”

nMick Newman's funeral will take place on Friday at Benhall Church at 1.30pm. Family flowers only.

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