Three hundred miles away in Nebraska, his friend and colleague Dr Lee Carhart had just finished surgery and was preparing to meet him in Kansas for work, as he did every third Sunday, when his phone rang. As Dr Carhart held the receiver to his ear, all he could make out was crying. Through her tears, Dr Tiller's nurse, Cathy, finally managed the words: "He's been shot. The doctor's been shot dead in church."

Dr Carhart was devastated but, as events unfolded, not entirely shocked to hear that the police had taken Scott Roeder, an anti-choice extremist, into custody later that day for the murder of Dr Tiller, one of only five physicians in the United States who provided late- pregnancy terminations.

It was not the first time that Dr Tiller had been targeted. His abortion clinic was firebombed in 1986. In 1993, a pro-life activist shot him in both arms. Bloodied but unbowed, Dr Tiller, a former military medical officer, returned to work the next day and had an enormous sign erected outside his office which read: "WOMEN NEED ABORTIONS, AND I AM GOING DO THEM". But, with Roeder's successful attempt on his life on that Sunday in 2009, Dr Tiller became the eighth American abortion clinic worker to be assassinated.