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WORKERS at a Southend surgery have paid tribute to an "amazing" couple who helped children in Africa.

Staff at Southend Medical Centre, which Aqeel Siddique, 79, opened in 2010, have paid their respects to the former surgeon, who built up a strong rapport there.

The distinguished surgeon, who was awarded an OBE for his medical work in the African country of Lesotho, died tragically in his back garden along with his wife, Nayyar, 77.

Aqeel suffered a heart attack while trying to pull Nayyar out of their backgarden swimming pool at their home in Woodgrange Drive, Thorpe Bay.

Karen Hepworth, practice manager at the surgery, said: “They will be so deeply missed as they were a huge presence to everyone here.

“He dedicated his life to helping other people and she did to helping children - they were an amazing couple.

“They were only in recently and they were such a down to earth, lovely couple who felt at home at this surgery.”

Nayyar suffered a fatal heart attack in the pool while doing her regular exercises. Aqeel was found dead in the garden after trying to save his wife.

The couple were renowned for their work in Lesotho where Aqeel was the country's only surgeon in 1969. Nayyar did lots of fundraising work for Save the Children.

Aqeel opened up the surgery in 2010 and brought along Royalty to do the honours as he is close friends with the African country's first family.

Prince Seeiso of Lesotho joined him in cutting the centre’s ribbon four years ago.

Staff said the last time they saw the couple was just three weeks ago.

Ms Hepworth added: “They were only in recently and they were such a down to earth, lovely couple who felt at home at this surgery.

“He was a regular visitor to the surgery on a frequent basis and he loved the surgery and the staff here, as did his wife.”