THE heartbroken family of a man who died while fighting Islamic State in Syria have spoken about their loss for the first time.
Former Havant schoolboy Ryan Lock left the UK for Turkey last August to join the Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG) in their fight against Daesh.
The 20-year-old with no military experience told his parents he was going on holiday but travelled to Syria.
Ryan tragically took his own life last December to avoid capture after he and four others reportedly came under siege in the village of Ja’bar from IS fighters.
His father Jon Plater yesterday attended Portsmouth’s annual Halabja memorial service, which marks the thousands of Kurds massacred by Saddam Hussein with chemical gas in 1988.
Mr Plater, 39, paid a touching tribute to the former Warblington School pupil after dozens honoured him at the ceremony in Southsea.
He had a heart of gold and was a very passionate boy and would do anything to help anyone.
Mr Plater, who used to run a sandwich shop in North End, told The News: ‘We were just completely shocked really – we didn’t have any idea he was going out there at all.
‘It was just complete and utter shock.
‘We obviously tried to persuade him to come back but it was something he really wanted to do so we didn’t have any choice.
‘He was a caring, loving boy. I didn’t expect him to go and do anything like this.
‘He had a heart of gold and was a very passionate boy and would do anything to help anyone.
‘Everyone coming out was just incredible. The speech was very moving and it is really nice to have the respect of all the Kurdish people.
‘It has been absolutely overwhelming. The Kurdish community have paid for his repatriation and funeral.
‘We’ve had a lot of people phone us up and offer their condolences and give us their respect. The ceremony has been lovely and we shall be back next year.’
There were scores of people in attendance, including the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Councillor David Fuller, and Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond.
Mrs Drummond said young chef Ryan’s death was tragic but added the government advises people against any travel to Syria.
She said: ‘While he was a very brave man, we don’t want anyone else going out there – leave it to the experts.
‘The Kurdish community is a large community and it is good we recognise the atrocity of Halbja.’
Omid Penjweny, 41, chair of Portsmouth’s Kurdish Community Association said: ‘It has been extra special to us because Ryan has been mentioned. In 1988, we didn’t have a friend to turn to – now we have one who comes and fights alongside us.
‘Halabja became a symbol of freedom against the evil and the unjust.’
Ryan, of Chichester, was remembered at the memorial held on the 29th anniversary of the 1988 massacre.