THE family of photo-journalist John Cantlie, a hostage of fundamentalist group Islamic State for seven years, say they are praying that unconfirmed news he is alive is true.

Mr Cantlie, a former Haslemere resident, grew up in East Meon with his parents Paul and Mary and two older siblings, including his sister Jessica, who now lives near Petersfield.

Government security minister Ben Wallace unexpectedly revealed he thought Mr Cantlie was still alive at a press briefing on February 5.

In response, the Free John Cantlie campaign, a support group run by his family, said: “We are aware of the current news circulating that John Cantlie is alive.

“While this is not substantiated at present, we continue to hope and pray this turns out to be true. Thank you for your continued support.”

A spokesman said the Home Office had no further comment to make because of the sensitivities around Mr Cantlie’s situation. He was taken hostage along with American journalist James Foley in late November 2012.

Mr Foley was later beheaded on camera in 2014, and Mr Cantlie was forced to present a series of short propaganda films for Isil, condemning American and British military action in Syria. But until the minister’s comments, he had not been seen or heard of since 2016.