FRIENDS and family of one-time Blackburn journalist Glenn Thomas who was killed in the Malaysia Airlines crash in the Ukraine are ‘hoping and praying’ for the early return of his remains, an ex-colleague said.

The 49-year-old was working for the World Health Organisation when he was a passenger on flight MH17 downed in controversial circumstances on July 17.

His body is believed to be in the Netherlands, where most of the 298 victims came from, awaiting formal identification.

Carol Tapp was head of Granada’s East Lancashire bureau in Daisyfield, Blackburn, and Glenn’s boss for a couple of years in the 1990s. She said: “I along with his family, partner Claudio and friends are hoping and praying his body can be found, identified and returned to the UK for a decent funeral.

“I have heard nothing and the fear is that it won’t be recovered.”

WHO news and communications co-ordinator Gregory Härtl said: “We believe Glenn’s remains are still in the Netherlands.

“We don’t know when yet exactly he will be repatriated. It now depends on identification and autopsy.”

Glenn’s WHO communications colleague Tarik Jasarevic, currently in Africa working on the Ebola crisis, said: “I don’t know exactly what the position is. He was a really good friend. I was very close to him.”

Mr Thomas, originally from Blackpool, was working as a media officer for the WHO in Geneva, and was on his way to an Australia Aids conference .

He is one of at least ten British nationals known to be among those on board the Boeing 777-200, which is thought to have been shot down over war-torn Ukraine. Mr Thomas worked on the Blackpool Citizen newspaper, a sister publication of the Lancashire Telegraph, in the late 80s and early 90s, before his move to Blackburn.

On Tuesday Mr Thomas’s twin sister Tracey Withers joined other British relatives who met Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street to call for the urgent and dignified return of the victims’ remains.