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We originally were planning to go on holiday in the UK in our caravan. However our son Matthew said he did not want to go. Because our holiday coincided with Matthew's 18th birthday we wanted him with us.
He liked the idea of going somewhere different, and my daughter and my wife wanted to see dolphins in their natural habitat, and one of my other sons and I were keen divers. So the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh, which is on the Red Sea, seemed to have something for all the family. We flew out there on 17 July 2005.
Our family group consisted of me (I am 49), my wife 48-year-old Julie, our sons Matthew, Ashley, aged 16, Thomas, aged 14, and our 12-year-old daughter Devan. We started our 14-night Holiday in Sharm el Sheikh on 17 July 2005. We were staying at the Ghazala Gardens Hotel.
|Matthew died one day before his birthday|
Matthew made some friends called Charith Jayawardene, David Sawyer, Hannah Lloyd, Georgina Lloyd, Daniel Hearne and Derry Holland. They decided to go to a club in Naama Bay on Friday 22 July.
In the early hours of Saturday 23 July I woke up and got a drink of water from a bottle at my bedside. Seconds later there was a loud noise like thunder and the room shook. The windows in the room then shattered and crashed onto the bedroom floor, the door and its frame to the room also came in. Fortunately the curtains had been drawn and this had stopped the window glass flying everywhere.
I woke my wife and told her I thought a bomb had gone off, to get dressed and make sure she put some shoes on. I then went to get the children, but Matthew was not in his room.
|"I remember seeing the wreckage of some cars and dead bodies lying all around. Some corpses were covered and some were just lying there..."|
As we came out of the hotel, some people were carrying a sun bed towards the back of the hotel by the swimming pool and placed it down just outside of our accommodation block. On the sun bed was Hannah Lloyd. Hannah was black from head to toe where she had been burnt from the explosion. She had an injury to her neck, that a lady (who said she was a nurse) was trying to stop bleeding, and a large gash several inches long in her leg.
I thought Hannah was one of the group of friends that Matthew had made that holiday. So I asked her if she had seen Matthew but she said no. I then asked if Matthew had been with her she said yes. I asked a passer by to look after Hannah until medical aid arrived.
In the meantime the rest of my family had moved away to the back of the hotel, onto the small football pitch, along with the other guests. The people there were gathered into small groups of friends and or family.
The nurse had moved on to the other casualty who was laying on the floor, she was trying to resuscitate him, but when I arrived it was obvious from his injuries that he was dead and was unlikely to be revived. I later found out that this was Charith Jayawardene, one the people that Matthew had made friends with and had particularly taken to.
I was now worried about Matthew, as Hannah said he was there and not in the town as we had hoped. I crawled over the warm smoking rubble shouting his name but got no reply. After spending some time looking in the darkness behind the reception, I decided to crawl through the remains of the Pizzeria, in the hope that maybe Hannah was mistaken and he had gone to the town, and was now outside the front of the hotel. I remember seeing the wreckage of some cars and dead bodies lying all around. Some corpses were covered and some were just lying there in the position they had been killed. I had to look at them to confirm it was not Matthew, which was pretty difficult.
At the hospital in Sharm al-Sheik we were told that Hannah's sister Georgina had seen Hannah, Matthew, Chaz and David Sayers together near the hotel pool and reception when the explosion happened. I now knew Matthew had been in the hotel at the time of the explosion and my worst fears were that he had probably been killed.
The British Ambassador came out to talk to us. I noticed some documents on a table and turned them over. The top document was an email, which read: “It has been verbally confirmed that the following people are dead from the bombing”. There was a list of names; on the list was Matthew’s name. Later that day Roger from the consulate phoned up to say that the Ambassador wanted to come over and apologise, would it be ok. I had calmed down a little by then, so agreed.
Tuesday 26 July came and went. We were in a beautiful hotel, with lovely food and drink available except we could not face eating anything. It was awful, because we had to entertain our children, pretend to smile and laugh whilst being torn apart inside because we did not know where our Matty was or what had happened to him
By Wednesday afternoon it was all too much. Julie and I had all but given up hope of finding out where Matthew’s body was, and had decided to take the next available flight home. I cannot express how hard that decision was, we felt like we were abandoning him. All we wanted was to find him and bring him home.
Thursday, the day of the flight, came. As we were about to pick up our cases to get onto the bus to take us to the airport, our family liaison office telephoned to say he had some news and that he needed to talk to us face to face. Needless to say we opted to miss the flight so that we could talk to him. He told us they had found a body that matched Matthew’s description and clothing. This was a particularly sad time for us as it confirmed Matthew was indeed dead. Yet it also brought some peace to us as we were now sure we had found him. We left for home on Sunday evening.
According to Georgina the group heard the car crash into the hotel, but it did not explode then. The boys got up and ran towards the reception to see if they could help, Hannah started to follow shortly after. The bomb then exploded killing Matthew and David instantly and mortally injuring Charith and Hannah. Georgina was injured in the leg by glass shrapnel from the blast. I can only assume that Matthew’s body was found by the emergency services and taken away from the scene before I had a chance to find him.
Over the next few days cards and flowers started to arrive. The messages in the cards helped us, knowing so many people were thinking of us.
Nothing can compensate us for losing Matthew. And the same is true for all of those who lost their loved ones. However, some small financial aid to cover the immediate aftermath for the injured and killed relatives once back in the UK would be a help to those in need and would help reduce the trauma and stress that they are already under. What I would like to see is the government showing some compassion for Brits injured and killed abroad, and to offer some financial aid to them.
In response to Mr Fulham's comments the Home Office says it is reviewing the rules about compensation for the victims of crime.