A DISTINGUISHED couple who mixed with royalty died together in a swimming pool tragedy.
Aqeel Siddique, 79, and his wife wife Nayyar, 77, tragically died in the incident at their home in Woodgrange Drive, Thorpe Bay.
Aqeel, a retired surgeon, suffered a heart attack while trying to save Nayyar from their garden swimming pool.
She suffered her fatal heart attack while doing her regular exercises in the pool.
Their son, Haroon Siddique, 49, who found his mum and dad later that day, said: “My father dedicated his life to helping people and he died trying to help my mother.
“We are very proud of everything they achieved and that gives us some solace. They were amazing people and were amazing examples to follow.”
The successful couple, who were born in India, had dedicated their lives to helping others.
Aqeel was renowned for working as a surgeon in Lesotho, while his wife fundraised for Save the Children, in the southern African country.
They had moved their with their two children Saima and Haroon, in 1969.
The family became close friends with Lesotho’s royal family, who still visit Southend to keep in touch.
They worked tirelessly to give aid to poverty-stricken families and had met the likes of Prince Harry, Princess Anne, and Pope John Paul II.
They moved to Southend to be near their two children and four grandchildren, after ill health forced Aqeel to retire as a surgeon in 2012.
Aqeel and his wife died on Tuesday, July 15.
Haroon added: “The most important thing was they had been with us and their grandchildren for the last couple of years. They were really dedicated grandparents and being able to see them was a plus for both them and us.”
AQEEL and Nayyar Siddique brushed shoulders with royalty and even the Pope, but remained humble in their quest to help the less fortunate.
The inspirational couple, who were both born in India, married in 1960 and first moved to England in 1962 so Aqeel could train as a surgeon.
He qualified in 1965, and went on to work in Lesotho, in southern Africa, where he became the country’s only surgeon in 1969.
He was only supposed to be there on a year’s placement, but the couple’s passion to help improve the lives of the country’s one million citizens saw them stay.
They developed a strong friendship with the royal family of Lesotho – King Moshoeshoe II and his sons – the current king King Letsie and Prince Seeiso.
King Letsie and Prince Seeiso remained good friends with the family and visited Southend to see the couple and their two children Saima Khan, 53, and Haroon, 49.
Prince Seeiso, who started the charity Sentebale with Prince Harry, even came over to open Southend Medical Centre in 2010.
Aqeel repeatedly refused to move into the private sector, wanting to help those who needed it most. His hard work and dedication to the people of Lesotho meant he was awarded an OBE in 1973, aged just 38.
He was also awarded the Order of Mothlomi by the King of Lesotho, the highest award a civilian can get, for his work and dedication to the country’s people.
In September 1988, Aqeel met Pope John Paul II during his visit to Lesotho, as part of his anti-apartheid stance.
The pair met at the hospital in the aftermath of a terrorist attack where Aqeel was treating many of the injured, who the Pope wanted to meet.
In 2005, Aqeel was made the Honourary Consular of Pakistan, in Lesotho.
His wife, Nayyar, was there by his side every step of the way, and dedicated her life by working with Save the Children, in Lesotho, to bring aid to the country.
Joining forces with the Queen of Lesotho, Nayyar fundraised to take aid to the remote mountain villages, ensuring they received food and goods. Their son, Haroon Siddique, said: “My father had a passion for teaching and supported and guided many young doctors in their training who have subsequently enjoyed successful medical careers all over the world.
“My mother was a steadfast partner of his throughout his life and provided her children and grandchildren the support, guidance and love which will remain with them all. She was instrumental in the early work Save the Children did in Lesotho, and assisted in much charity work.
“They dedicated their lives to those people. Now we are hearing from people all over the world calling to send their condolences.”
A memorial service is being organised in their honour in Lesotho.
He added: “Though they met many famous and important people in their lives, they remained humble people.
“My father’s passion and joy was the work he did as a surgeon, helping and treating the poor and needy people in Lesotho.”
Haroon’s children Rahil, 22 and Mariam, 19, were so inspired by his achievements they too are in medical school. His younger daughter Imaan, 14, also has dreams to study medicine.
Saima’s daughter Humera, 25, is completing a PhD in economics.