‘So much living to do’: stories of UK's latest named coronavirus victims

Matthew Weaver and Helen Pidd

Of the more than 22,000 people to have contracted coronavirus in the UK by Monday, more than 1,400 have died. Most have not been named, and the majority were older people with underlying health conditions – though in some cases family members and medical professionals have been keen to emphasise that they were expected to live with their conditions for many years.

Of the deaths so far, in the UK and those connected to the UK, details have emerged in at least 27 cases:

Frank Hammond, 83

Hammond died in Stepping Hill hospital in Stockport on 26 March, He tested positive for coronavirus despite having no cough and only a mild temperature. His daughter, Trisha Conroy, paid tribute to a “lovely, funny man who always wanted to make people laugh”. He enjoyed art and making scraperboard images and loved walking in the nearby Peak District. A photography enthusiast who worked in Jessops camera shop for many years, Frank had suffered from chronic lung disease and had reduced mobility but was otherwise in decent health before he fell ill, Trisha said: “He used a walking frame in the house and a mobility scooter when he was out after he lost a lot of the strength in his legs but was otherwise in decent shape.” He is survived by his wife, Brenda, daughters Trisha and Claire, and four grandchildren.

Christopher Vallely, 79

Vallely died in Belfast’s Mater hospital just hours after his wife, Isobel, passed away in the same hospital room. Earlier this year he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. He was admitted to hospital and placed in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19. Vallely, who was known as Arty, retired to his native Belfast after in 2003 working for decades in England. He lived near the Falls Road in West Belfast. He died on 29 March.

Isobel Vallely, 77

Isobel Vallely had been married to Christopher for 53 years. She died on 28 March, the day after the couple’s 53rd wedding anniversary. She had a stroke last year, and was admitted to hospital on 26 March after testing positive for coronavirus. Her daughter, Fiona said both Isobel and Christopher were “amazing parents”. She added: “They were fantastic people who did not deserve to go this way.”

Amged El-Hawrani, 55

Amged El-Hawrani. Photograph: University Hospitals Derby and Burton/PA

A respected ear, nose and throat consultant who worked at Queen’s hospital Burton in Derbyshire. He was the first confirmed hospital frontline worker to die in the UK after testing positive for coronavirus. His death prompted tributes from ministers and senior health leaders. In a statement, his family said: “His greatest passions were his family and his profession, and he dedicated his life to both. He was the rock of our family, incredibly strong, compassionate, caring and giving. He always put everyone else before himself.” He died on 28 March at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

Hilda Churchill, 108

Believed to be oldest coronavirus victim in the UK, Churchill was a survivor of the 1918 Spanish flu. She died in a Salford care home on 28 March, hours after testing positive for Covid-19 and just eight days before what would have been her 109th birthday. Before she died, she had been reminiscing about the Spanish flu, according to her grandson Anthony Churchill. She and most of her family in their home in Crewe had become infected, including her father, who collapsed in the street with the flu, she recalled. They all survived apart from her 12-month-old baby sister. “Grandma said she remembered a small box being put in a carriage,” her grandson said. “She was saying how amazing it is that something you can’t see can be so devastating.” Hilda was a seamstress who moved to Salford during the depression to find work. She was known for her baking skills, particularly her gravy. She had four children, 11 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren.

Adil El Tayar, 63

Tayar was the first working NHS surgeon known to have died from Covid-19 in the UK. He had been volunteering in A&E departments in the Midlands to help the NHS cope with the virus. “He wanted to be deployed where he would be most useful in the crisis,” said his cousin, the broadcaster Zeinab Badawi. “It had taken just 12 days for Adil to go from a seemingly fit and capable doctor working in a busy hospital to lying in a hospital morgue.” Former colleague Abbas Ghaznafar, a renal transplant surgeon at St George’s University in Tooting, described Tayar as a “noble human being” who was a “hardworking, dedicated surgeon”. He died on 25 March at West Middlesex University hospital, London.

Pooja Sharma, 33

Pooja Sharma. Photograph: Facebook

Sharma was a hospital pharmacist who died from the virus a day after it claimed the life of her father. She worked at Eastbourne District general hospital in East Sussex. Lara Stacey Young, a nurse in the area, said: “So many people will be devastated. She was such a lovely soul.” Amarjit Aujla, a friend from childhood, said: “Her laughter was contagious and her random calls made my day. From when we were in primary school until we last spoke two weeks ago, you gave me nothing but love, support and a tummy ache with all the laughter.” She died on 26 March.

Sudhir Sharma, 61

Sharma was an immigration officer at Heathrow airport’s terminal 3. He died on 25 March, a day before his daughter also succumbed to the virus. It is unclear whether the pair had any contact before both contracted the disease. Sharma had health problems and had not been on duty at Heathrow since early January. Nick Jariwalla, director of Border Force at Heathrow, said: “Sudhir was a very well-respected, kind and experienced officer. He will be greatly missed by everyone.”

Adam Harkins Sullivan, 28

Harkins Sullivan, from Camden, north London, was a painter and decorator and father to a six-year-old son. He worked with his father who gave him his nickname, Spud. Speaking to the Camden New Journal, his mother, Jackie Harkins, said: “I’ve lost something very precious to me that can never be replaced. We are all just in shock because he was only a young man. He was healthy – you didn’t have to tell him to eat his greens, he was always like that.” An otherwise fit man, he had been taken to hospital with suspected pneumonia. He died on 24 March at University College hospital in London in an isolation ward for coronavirus patients.

Doreen Hunt, 72

Hunt was born in 1947 in Canning Town, east London, into “extreme poverty”, said her son Steve Hunt, adding that she was brought up in “one of the poorest families in a poor area”. After leaving London for Dunstable in 1973, Hunt ran an insurance business for many years with her husband, John, in the Bedfordshire town. “She became as successful in business as she was as a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother,” her son said. “She travelled the world and enjoyed a rich and varied life.” Hunt had been on dialysis for kidney problems at Luton and Dunstable hospital but her condition deteriorated rapidly and she was admitted to intensive care last Friday. She died two days later, on Mother’s Day, her family said. After her death, tests results confirmed she had been infected by the coronavirus.

Steven Dick, 37

Dick was the UK’s deputy ambassador to Hungary. He had been with the Foreign Office since 2008 and had previously served in Kabul and Riyadh. His parents, Steven and Carol Dick, said: “Steven was a much-loved son, grandson and nephew. He was kind, funny and generous. It was always his dream to work for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and he was very happy representing our country overseas.” Shaun Walker, the Guardian’s central and eastern Europe correspondent, said: “He was a jovial, intellectually curious and extremely helpful person. He spoke fluent Hungarian, having undergone a year’s training before taking up his position last autumn. Early last week he helped coordinate arrangements for me to get back into the country, and mentioned that he had tested positive for coronavirus, but at that time said he was feeling fine.”

Allan Oldcorn, 74

Oldcorn was a retired lorry driver for Bowater-Scott, which manufactured tissues and toilet rolls. Wendy Cavin, one of his three daughters, fondly remembers him leaving sweets for her and sisters on the family mantelpiece in Flookburgh, Lancashire, when he was doing night shifts. Speaking to the Cumberland News and Star, she said: “He was the go-to man when it came to Flookburgh charter fair day, when everybody needed toilet rolls to make their float flowers.” She added: “He was an amazing husband, dad, grandad and great-grandad – the anchor of our family.” Oldcorn, who had been “fit and healthy”, died on 21 March, a day after being admitted to hospital with shortness of breath and backache. Doctors later confirmed he had tested positive for coronavirus, Cavin said on Facebook.

Michael Gerard, 73

Gerard was a teacher, musician, campaigner and lifelong Guardian reader. His daughter, Sushila Moles, described him as “loving, kind and always supportive”. She said he made up daily limericks and entertained her with bizarre conversations. Gerard grew up in Shortlands in Bromley, south-east London. He met his wife, Caroline, at Durham University and the couple both worked as teachers in Leicester. Later Gerard specialised in teaching visually impaired children. Moles said: “He was a hoarder, which worked well for this occupation as he always had a boot full of noisy toys and tinsel that he used to help children.” He played many musical instruments but was most accomplished at the violin and founded several orchestras and bands near his home in Clarendon Park, Leicester. He was a Woodcraft Folk leader for 30 years, a former president of the Leicester Secular Society and a frequent attendee of anti-war demonstrations. In later years he had a number of health problems including Crohn’s disease. We was diagnosed with Covid-19 on 18 March and died four days later at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

Jon Jacob, 69

Jacob was a successful property lawyer and partner at the London firm Bower Cotton Hamilton, who lived in Chesham, Buckinghamshire. He was a stalwart of quiz leagues in London and the Chilterns, known for his formidable knowledge of classical music. A friend said Jacob “wore his knowledge lightly, and was very modest and self-effacing, always genuinely surprised to be told how good he was. He was also a lovely man: kind, generous and absolutely delightful company. He will be sorely missed by all his friends in the quizzing family.” Paddy Duffy, another fellow quizzer, tweeted: “Just a lovely man, brilliant fun and incredibly erudite. I’ll remember fondly our Sunday matches and our japes on the quiz holiday in Rhodes.” Jacob died on 23 March of complications from Covid-19.

Ruth Burke, 82

Ruth Burke. Photograph: Facebook

Burke was the fourth victim of coronavirus in Northern Ireland, according to her daughter Brenda Doherty. She said her mother had “unbelievable strength and suffered many challenges in her life”, adding: “Unfortunately this was one that she was not going to overcome.” In an emotional video on Facebook she said: “We couldn’t be with her when she passed. We’ll not see her coffin, we’ll not get to kiss her.” Doherty urged the public to stop panic-buying and stay indoors. “My mum would not have believed how people are behaving. She would have thought better of society. My mum was a woman who loved life. If you value life, you will stay in and do as you’ve been asked.” Burke’s death was announced by Doherty on 24 March.

Marita Edwards, 80

“She was a very gentle loving woman and a friend to everybody,” Edwards’ son Stuart Loud said. She grew up in the village of Mangotsfield near Bristol. She worked as a cleaner in a factory in the city and brought up two children with her first husband. She found a new life with her second husband the on other side of the Bristol channel, in the village of Bulwark in Monmouthshire. She was a regular at the Conservative Club in Chepstow, where she enjoyed dancing. “She had a very rich social life, much better than mine,” said Loud. Edwards was a former captain of the women’s golf team at St Pierre country club in Chepstow, and continued to play golf until she was admitted to hospital for a routine operation in February. She died three weeks later of hospital-acquired Covid-19 a day after testing positive for the virus. Loud said: “She was a lovely lady and it was just a horrendous way to go. I just want to make people aware of that.”

Peter Myles, 77

Myles’s struggles with Covid-19 were documented on social media by his daughter, the actor Sophia Myles. She said she had done it to show the “harsh reality of the coronavirus”. In 2018 she tweeted about her father’s diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease. Before he retired in 2008, Myles was an Anglican vicar at St John’s church in Isleworth, west London, where he was described as a “liberal soul”. After being ordained in 1971, his first job as curate was in Tideswell in Derbyshire. He spent the rest of his career in west London, including stints as a priest at St Peter’s church in Notting Hill and as chaplain to the bishop of Kensington. In his final years he lived in a care home close to St John’s. He died on 21 March.

Wendy Jacobs

Jacobs was the headteacher of Roose primary school in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. Her leadership of the school was repeatedly praised by inspectors. “This vibrant school provides a good quality of education with outstanding features,” they said in a recent report. The school’s chair of governors, Fred Chatfield, said her death was devastating for the school and the community. “This is a huge loss,” he said. Jacobs died on 22 March.

William Stern, 85

Born Vilmos György Stern in Budapest, Hungary, on 2 July 1935, Stern was imprisoned as a child in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during the second world war. He shared his memories of Torah readings in the camp on the Shoah website. After the war he settled in London and went on to build a successful property empire. Stern Holdings collapsed in 1973 and in 1978 Stern was declared bankrupt with debts of £118m, a record that stood for 14 years. He was a member of the ultra-Orthodox Haredi community in London.

Rina Feldman, 97

Like Stern, Feldman was a member of the ultra-orthodox Haredi community. No other details about her have been reported.

Jean Bradford Nutter

Jean was the aunt of the former England rugby player Will Greenwood. In an Instagram post he said she “never did anything but bring sunshine into my life”. Greenwood said his aunt lived near his boarding school in Sedbergh, Cumbria. He said she was the eldest of three sisters and was in her 80s “but had so much living to do”. She died on 21 March.

Hassan Milani

Councillor Ali Milani, who was Labour’s parliamentary contender against Boris Johnson in Uxbridge and South Ruislip in the 2019 general election, revealed that his father, Hassan, had died after contracting the coronavirus on a trip to Iran. “In the early hours of this morning,” he said on Saturday, “my father tragically passed away after having contracted Covid-19. Please keep him in your prayers. This virus is taking millions all across the world.”

Craig Ruston, 45

Craig Ruston. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Ruston, a rugby fan and father of two from Kettering, Northamptonshire, had been a footwear designer, including at Dr Martens, before being diagnosed with motor neurone disease. He had been writing about his struggle with the condition before he tested positive for Covid-19. But his posts became less frequent as he began losing the strength in his upper body. In one of his last, he wrote about a dream he had of standing beside his wife and daughters at his own funeral. He wrote: “I don’t fear death, but I can tear myself to pieces if I dwell too long on what happens when I’m gone.” His family said he was “not ready to go”. He died on 16 March.

Leonard Gibson, 78

Leonard Gibson. Photograph: Sheffield teaching hospitals NHS foundation trust/PA

Described by his family as a “typical jolly Irishman”, Gibson died on St Patrick’s Day, 17 March. He was born in County Tyrone and had 12 siblings. After moving to South Yorkshire aged 26, he worked at the coking plant at Orgreave. In retirement he enjoyed gardening, but problems with his lungs forced him to move into a sheltered housing flat in Oughtibridge, near Sheffield. He died in Sheffield Northern general hospital after being diagnosed with Covid-19. His daughters, Lisa, an NHS worker, and Michelle, a teaching assistant, were not allowed to visit him in hospital. Lisa said: “It is sad that we weren’t able to be with Daddy, but the nurses were there for us.”

Nick Matthews, 59

Mary and Nick Matthews. Photograph: Mary Matthews/Facebook

Described as a “true legend” of the Avon and Somerset police, Matthews retired as an officer in 2010 after a heart attack. He and his wife, Mary, from Nailsea in Somerset, had a week’s holiday on the Canary island of Fuerteventura at the end of February. Matthews was taken to Bristol Royal Infirmary after complaining of breathing difficulties on 12 March. He died on 14 March after testing positive for Covid-19.

Darrell Blakeley, 88

Blakeley was a churchgoer from Middleton in Rochdale and sang in the choir. He had a “beautiful voice”, according to a spokeswoman for St Michael’s church. He was also regarded as a “gracious gentleman”, she said. He had underlying health conditions and fell ill after coming into contact with someone who had travelled to Italy. Blakeley was admitted to North Manchester general hospital on 3 March with sepsis. He tested positive for Covid-19 on 10 March and died three days later.

Kimberley Finlayson, 53

Finlayson was the first British victim of coronavirus to be named after she died on holiday on the island of Bali in Indonesia on 11 March. She was the founder of a dental communication business based in Shenley, Hertfordshire, one of the counties worst hit at the start of the outbreak in the UK. She had four children. Her colleagues paid tribute to her “passion, creativity and determination”. Finlayson had lung disease and diabetes.