Seven years after IS 'Beatles' murdered Kayla Mueller, her parents still hope to bring her body home

  • ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo reports on the parents who want their daughter's body to rest in peace

The conviction of the fourth and final member of the so-called 'Beatles' Islamic State cell is of little comfort to the parents of murdered Kayla Mueller who still do not know where their daughter's body is.

The 26-year-old American aid worker was kidnapped in Aleppo in 2013 and murdered by the group of British jihadis in uncertain circumstances in 2015.

Her remains, and those of the other hostages held by the group have never been found.

A week after British national El Shafee Elsheikh was found guilty for his part in an “evil” hostage-taking scheme which involved torturing, beating and executing prisoners, Ms Mueller's parents have spoken to ITV News about getting some justice for their daughter and their hopes for closure after so many years.

Elsheikh faces a possible life sentence when he appears in court later this year.

Bereaved families finally get justice, if not peace, ITV News Correspondent Robert Moore reported after the guilty verdict was reached

Just days on from the court case which Marsha and Carl Mueller sat through and heard in agonising detail about what their daughter went through, and at which Ms Mueller gave evidence which helped ensure Elsheikh's conviction, her parents spoke to ITV News about their quest "to bring Kayla home".

Should they ever recover their daughter's remains, Mr and Ms Mueller want to scatter her ashes on an Arizona mountainside she nicknamed "Broccoli Point" and where the family have many happy memories.

“It reminds us of when we were young and the kids were young and life was a little more care free. It make me think so much of Kayla,” Ms Mueller said.

Marsha Mueller told ITV News how she spends almost every minute thinking of her murdered daughter

But their bid to bring Kayla's remains home is not just to bring them closure, but to help the families of the other murdered hostages too, including Britons Alan Henning and David Haines, Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig, and Japanese journalists Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto.

From L to R: David Haines, Kayla Mueller and James Foley. Credit: PA/ Family handout

Some of the victims were beheaded, with their deaths filmed and broadcast on social media. The killings triggered outrage around the world.

Ms Mueller's parents are reported to have been sent an image of her body by the group.

"Our focus on Kayla is for the other families too. We might find them all...I can see Kayla, she’d be up there, cheering away: 'Yay they did it, they brought us all home'," her parents told ITV News.

This is not the first time ITV News has met the Muellers.

A year ago, Rohit Kachroo travelled to their home in Arizona where he was shown Kayla's untouched bedroom and also emails her parents sent as they tried to negotiate with her captors.

During the trial, Ms Mueller recounted how she and her husband had "begged" for their daughter Kayla's life in emails.

The US, like the UK, has a policy of not negotiating with hostage-takers.

Marsha Mueller reads aloud one of the many emails the 'Beatles' sent her while they held her daughter captive

The trial and conviction of Elsheikh means that the Muellers now know who they were negotiating with.

Along with the 33-year-old Londoner, the 'Beatles' - as they were named by their hostages due to their British accents - cell was said to be made up of ringleader Mohammed Emwazi (known as Jihadi John), Aine Davis and Alexanda Kotey.

Elsheikh was the last of the group to have his fate decided. Emwazi was killed by a US drone strike in 2015, while Davis is serving a sentence in a Turkish jail. Kotey, meanwhile, has already pleaded guilty.

In 2019, Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo quizzed Elsheikh about the death of Briton David Haines but even then, the terrorist had rehearsed what would become his defence; that he was a lowly IS operative - not an executioner, something the jury did not buy

The notorious group became known for their cruelty - torturing and beating prisoners, forcing them to fight each other until they collapsed and even making them sing cruel song parodies.

Surviving hostages testified that the 'Beatles' delighted themselves in rewriting Hotel California as Hotel Osama - making them sing the refrain "you will never leave".

In 2011, Kotey and Elsheikh were arrested as they took part in a demonstration outside the US embassy in London in support of the 9/11 attacks.

They travelled to Syria the following year.

Elsheikh was convicted in the US on all eight counts he faced surrounding the deaths of the four American hostages: Mr Foley, Mr Sotloff, Mr Kassig and Ms Mueller.

They were amongst 26 hostages taken captive between 2012 and 2015, when IS controlled large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

During Elsheikh's trial , the surviving hostages, all of whom were European — the American and British hostages were all killed — recounted how they dreaded the Beatles' appearance at the various prisons to which they were constantly shuttled and relocated.

Four rows in the courtroom were permanently reserved for former hostages.

It is believed Elsheikh and Kotey may yet face court in the UK for the deaths of British nationals.

Listen to 'Shamima Begum: The Blame Game', available on Apple podcasts