Robin Cook's widow pays emotional tribute,00.html

Matthew Tempest and agencies
Monday August 8, 2005

Robin Cook's widow tonight paid tribute to her late husband, and thanked the public for their messages of support since his unexpected death.
The former foreign secretary, who was 59, died on Saturday while out walking with his wife Gaynor in Scotland.

In her first public statement, issued by the Press Association, Gaynor Cook paid tribute to her husband's "generosity, tolerance ... integrity and great joy in life."

A date for Mr Cook's funeral is expected later tonight, and the postmortem examination is expected to be completed tomorrow.

According to Downing Street, the prime minister is unlikely to return from holiday to attend the funeral, although he would be present for any memorial service later this year.

Tonight Mrs Cook, who was with her husband in the remote Scottish highlands when he collapsed and fell, said: "At this terrible time, I have been deeply touched by the many, many messages of support I have received and Christopher, Peter and I want to thank everyone who has given and offered help.

"I loved and admired my husband more than I can say - for his generosity, his tolerance, his integrity and his great joy in life."

"His love was the greatest gift I will ever receive".

The postmortem was taking place at Inverness's Raigmore Hospital, where Mrs Cook yesterday went to formally identify her husband's body.

Today's procedure should determine whether Mr Cook suffered a fatal heart attack, or whether he was killed by injuries sustained in a subsequent fall.

It is understood Mrs Cook was today at the couple's home in Edinburgh, being comforted by friends as funeral arrangements were finalised.

Mr Cook, 59, collapsed while on a walking holiday with Gaynor in northern Scotland on Saturday and was pronounced dead after being airlifted to hospital some 90 minutes later.

After her husband had been airlifted to the hospital, where he was declared dead at 4.05pm, Mrs Cook was left to make her way down the mountain by foot.

Details of Mr Cook's funeral should come later today. Mr Cook's election agent and family friend Jim Devine, told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "I have to meet with the funeral directors and various people this morning, and we will be making that announcement this afternoon."

The Cooks are thought to have been staying in the village of Durness - the most northerly inhabited locality of mainland Britain - and were reported to have spent Friday at nearby Cape Wrath.

Mr Cook's two grown-up sons by his marriage to his first wife Margaret - Peter and Christopher - have travelled to Scotland from their homes in England.

Their mother yesterday paid tribute to her ex-husband as an "exemplary father" and a political "heavyweight".

Political tributes were led by the prime minister, Tony Blair, who called him an "outstanding, extraordinary talent".

His successor as foreign secretary, Jack Straw, hailed him as "the greatest parliamentarian of his generation".

Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock predicted that, had he lived, Mr Cook would have returned to the party's front bench, which he left in 2003 in protest at the Iraq war.

The United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, described the former foreign secretary as a "partner on a wide range of issues".

"Throughout a rich and varied life, Mr Cook displayed exceptional intellect, eloquence, vision and passion in the domestic and international arenas alike," said a spokesman for Mr Annan.

The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, paid tribute to a "passionate defender of human freedom and dignity".