Friends and family of a Grove Park martial arts expert born with club feet due to the effects of Thalidomide are appealing for help to have his body repatriated after he died in a car crash in Cyprus.
Ray ‘Duch’ Peter, who worked as a martial arts instructor, dog handler and doorman in east London moved to the Mediterranean island 12 years ago, and became renowned as a singer in clubs and bars, and at weddings. He died there on Saturday, October 29.
Traffic police believe the 53-year-old died after losing control of his car and careening into an embankment before overturning into a field, The Cyprus Weekly reported.
Jacqui Knight, 47, a friend from Lucas Road, Penge, hopes to raise £10,000 for funeral and repatriation costs through a crowdfunding page that would enable him to be buried next to his father and his son in Grove Park Cemetery.
“It was a big shock. The cost of a funeral hits us all – especially with a sudden deathm being a widow myself. It’s so much to take in,” she explained.
“In the last few years he had really established himself in all the clubs and bars out there and as a wedding singer.
“That is the saddest thing, I think, because he was so happy. He had reached contentment.”
After being adopted at birth, he had a turbulent childhood in which he moved between foster families and children’s homes. And while living with a Singaporean family he learned karate.
He would become a martial arts expert – even earning a black belt in karate despite being restricted to walking on crutches due to the effects of Thalidomide – and would teach the discipline to children.
Tragedy struck when his first child, Duch Junior, died at a young age, and his life began to spiral out of control.
But, ever a fighter, Duch managed to get his life back on track through his love of martial arts and music.
He would become a proud father to four more children – Jade, Dean, Nathan and Mia – and his friend Ms Knight says he had finally reached “contentment” in Cyprus.
Duch built a livelihood as a singer out in Cyprus, and was living happily with his partner Vicky.
Ms Knight last saw him two-and-a-half years ago, but the two spoke regularly on Facebook.
On the Gofundme page – through which more than £2,000 has been pledged since being set up just eight days ago – she described Duch as an “amazing, unique, incredible human being”.
“I met Duch when I was 14,” she added. “I used to bunk off school and meet him in Lewisham.
“We have been so close ever since.”
Ms Knight described Duch overcoming adversity to reach “contentment” as inspirational.
She said: “He never used to let it worry him, but he had a battle on his hands.
“He had a full life. He did more than any able-bodied men I know.”
A memorial service will be held in Cyprus on November 30. Although a date for a UK service has not yet been set, Ms Knight said Duch’s funeral would be held in the UK later this month.
To donate, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/duchpeter