MH17: How father Barry Sweeney has spent eight years campaigning for justice for son Liam Sweeney

Barry Sweeney, father of Liam Sweeney, who was killed when MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, has been fighting for justice since 2014. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Barry Sweeney from Newcastle has fought every day since 2014 for justice for his son Liam who died on flight MH17. He has become a figurehead for the many families who lost relatives that day.

Our correspondent Gregg Easteal has got to know him well in that time and reflects here on one father's huge strength, warmth and dignity after facing almost unimaginable loss.

Through great tragedy, Barry Sweeney is a man the people of the North East have come to know well.

Within hours of hearing his son Liam had been killed when flight MH17 was torn from the sky over Ukraine, he found the strength to tell the world what he and his family were going through.

At the time he told ITV News: "It is very difficult to accept what has happened, it's surreal.

"He was a kind, generous, hard-working lad who was on his way to watch football and he ends up being killed by an act of war.

"Someone has to be held responsible for what happened to my lad."

The vow that justice needed to be done for his son and the 297 others who died on the flight - including Liam's friend John Alder - is something Mr Sweeney has stuck to since.

He has attended virtually every memorial service, every key hearing and key inquiry he can - speaking with great dignity and great passion in an accent that reminds everyone of Liam and his father's proud North Eastern roots.

When the trial finally began in 2020 of four men accused of playing key roles in the firing of a missile that shot down MH17 over Ukraine, Mr Sweeney again summed up the feelings of many relatives who'd lost someone on the flight.

"At least if it was an accident, you'd know why it happened or what happened but I still want to find out why my son had to die for no reason,” he said. “There was no reason it had to happen or should have happened.

"Have a look at yourselves, if it was your family, if it was your kids, if it was your parents or whoever, have a look at it, come back and give us the justice we deserve."

Liam Sweeney, from Newcastle, was killed when flight MH17 was shot down. Credit: Family

But Mr Sweeney is not just a father campaigning for justice, he is also a remarkable story of triumph over sorrow.

He readily admitted during our many interviews that Liam's loss cuts deep and a day never goes by without it playing on his mind.

Yet he remains a positive, upbeat, good-humoured man determined not to be beaten by his grief.

And there's a thick, strong, black and white fibre that bonds the father and son together to this day.

That bond is their beloved United. Every time he watches Newcastle play, Liam is never far away.

He can still tell you in a moment the first game he took his son to. A defeat by Sunderland in 1999 he says. Ruud Gullit's last game.

"He'd have loved how they're doing right now though. Loved it," he added with that now familiar warm, broad smile.

Mr Sweeney truly is a living example of how a broken heart can still beat strong; embracing every moment of the life he has while still mourning one so dear.

And though I wish the circumstances had been different it's been a pleasure and an privilege getting to know him and telling his story over the last eight years.

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