Mother of Manchester volunteer aid worker 'captured' by Russians pleads for his release

ITV Granada Reports journalist Jennifer Buck reports on the latest

The mother of a Manchester volunteer aid worker reportedly captured by Russian forces in Ukraine says she cannot cope without him and has pleaded for his return.

Paul Urey, 45, is believed to have been taken on Monday 25 April at a checkpoint south of the city of Zaporizhzhia in south-eastern Ukraine.

The Manchester-based dad had headed out to the war zone to help those caught up in the fighting, telling his family he 'could not just sit there and do nothing'.

But, as he drove into the country to try to evacuate "a lady and two children" with fellow volunteer worker Dylan Healy from Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, the pair were captured by Russian military.

The Foreign Office said it is urgently seeking more information.

Speaking on her doorstep, Mr Urey's worried mother, Linda Urey, pleaded with those who had taken him.

"Please give him back," she said. "He’s a family man, he’s my carer, he helps me and he has been gone two weeks now.

"A week they’ve had him and I miss him. I can’t cope with it, I’ve not eaten, I can’t sleep, my chest, it’s horrible."

She added: "He’s not the man you think he is.

"I just don’t understand, what lad would clean up for him mum, does everything for me, does my shopping for me, does that sound like a mercenary, I don’t think so, he does everything for me."

Paul is a Type One diabetic who needs regular shots of insulin and food.

Linda added: "He told me, 'I can’t sit there mum and watch people dying because they’re hungry, they’re scared, he said I’ve seen people where they’re ducking every time there’s a noise, I can’t live with myself'.

"I said, 'what about me? What about your family? What about your dog? What about your diabetes, that can kill you. He said, 'but you don’t understand.' We fell out over it.”

Paul Urey last spoke to his family on Sunday, 24 April, and has not been heard from since. Credit: Allan Moore/Presidium Network

UK non-profit organisation Presidium Network raised the alarm when contacts had not heard from the pair since Monday, and the woman they had been trying to help leave received "strange text messages".

Dominik Bryne, co-founder of Presidium Network, said suspicious Viber messages were sent from Mr Urey's number that have been verified as fake.

The messages were not written in their natural style and failed to issue code words for security.

Russian troops later stormed the house of the woman the men were attempting to help evacuate.

The soldiers interrogated the family, making the husband lie on the floor as the Russians demanded to know about their involvement with "British spies", Mr Bryne said. The family later escaped to Poland, he said.

He added that the men had been operating on their own in the war zone and had not been associated with any aid group.

Ms Urey said she last spoke to her son face-to-face on Sunday where he told her he was driving into Ukraine.

She said the pair were "having a laugh, singing songs, and they were trying to find a petrol station".

Mr Urey then told his mum was was, "going to go off the grid for 32 hours" while he carried out the rescue mission.

The next Ms Urey heard from her son was in a text message at around 4am on Monday, which read, "morning I’m ok, ring you tonight, love you".

"That was not his normal language," she said. "I thought he’s never messaged me at that time, he knows I’ll have been in bed, but because there was two kisses and a little emoji, he always sends that, I thought I was being paranoid."

But, as hours passed and she did not hear from him Ms Urey says she began to get worried, and tried to ring her son, who did not pick up.

She was then contacted by the Presidium Network. "He said, ‘we think the Russians have him’," Ms Urey added.

"I was devastated. I’m thinking is it worth it, is it really worth going out there and dying?"