UK

Tunisia attack: Victim 'played dead' as husband killed

Allison Heathcote Image copyright Family Handout
Image caption Allison Heathcote survived five gunshot wounds but her husband died

A holidaymaker "played dead" next to her husband's body while a gunman killed 38 people at a Tunisian beach resort in 2015, an inquest has heard.

Allison Heathcote, 50, survived five gunshot wounds but her husband Philip, 53, died in the attack near Sousse.

The pair, from Suffolk, were on their 30th wedding anniversary holiday when Islamist Seifeddine Rezgui opened fire.

Mrs Heathcote said she had only realised her husband "had not made it" when he did not answer her.

The Heathcoates, who have a son, were on the beach at the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel when Rezgui launched his attack on 26 June.

Image caption Thirty of the 38 people killed by a gunman on a Tunisian beach were British

The couple "dived into the sand between the sun beds", but were found by the gunman, Mrs Heathcote said in a statement read at the inquest into the deaths of 30 Britons at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

She described feeling "pure fear" as Rezgui wounded her, killed her husband, then walked away to murder others.

After being wounded, she said: "I stayed laying on the sand, trying not to move and draw attention to the fact that I was still alive."

Once the sound of gunshots faded, Mrs Heathcote said, she asked her husband if he was OK.

"At the first opportunity I was asking Philip if he was alright.

"There was no response from Philip and I realised he had not made it."

Mrs Heathcote was shot in the arm and abdomen and spent a month in an induced coma, the inquest heard.

'Pure fear'

The inquest is set to hear evidence about each of the 30 Britons killed in the attack.

Image copyright Family Handout
Image caption Claire Windass's husband told the court: "There was no pulse. I closed her eyes"

Also on the beach was Jim Windass, 66, who had tried in vain to pull his wife Claire, 54, to safety.

"It was difficult to walk on the sand, let alone run," he told the inquest.

The gunman fired shots as Mr Windass, who was celebrating his 65th birthday, dragged his wife from a sun bed.

He described being "on my hands and knees over Claire", a mother-of-two from Hull, to protect her.

"But it was clear that something had happened," Mr Windass told the inquest.

"There was no pulse. I closed her eyes."

Asked what information he had received about the security situation in Tunisia or the Foreign Office travel advice when booking the holiday at a Thomson shop, he said "none whatsoever".

Howard Stevens QC, representing Thomson's owner TUI, showed Mr Windass pages from documents sent to the couple after they booked, which contained links to travel advice pages on the Foreign Office website.

Mr Windass told the lawyer: "Because we had already been twice before and no-one had mentioned anything untoward, we booked it again."

Who were the British victims?

Ex-police officer Michael Perry, who went to Tunisia with wife Angela, also spoke to the court in person.

The pair were on the beach when Mr Perry saw a "man in black" - the gunman Rezgui - whom he mistook for a policeman.

"My initial thought was that this was a police officer and he was dealing with a terrorist," he said.

"Then I realised this was the terrorist."

Mr Perry, who retired as a Leicestershire police chief superintendent in 1998, told the inquest that the gunman fired in an "uncontrolled manner", suggesting he had the gun in automatic mode - where pulling the trigger results in a hail of bullets.

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Media captionTunisia inquest shown police map of killer's spree

"He was facing in our direction and aiming downwards at people who were in the sun beds," he said.

He added that there were no armed guards at the hotel.

"The staff were mainly female, [there was a] lot of hysteria and panic and running around," he said.

Mr Perry and his wife hid in the basement of the spa building before creeping up to the third floor, where they saw Rezgui shoot three people by the poolside.

Image copyright TUI/EPA
Image caption Gunman Rezgui began shooting people on the beach before entering the Riu Imperial Marhaba hotel

Another survivor, Keith Hawkes, said he escaped being shot because the gunman was on his mobile phone.

Mr Hawkes, a former Gurkha from Highbridge in Somerset, said in a statement that he walked past Rezgui holding an AK-47 assault rifle but assumed he was security.

He "ran past the gunman on his left-hand side, two feet from him", but Rezgui did not notice because he was using his phone.

Golden anniversary

Donna Bradley, whose parents Ray and Angie Fisher were shot dead, was the first relative to speak to the court in person.

The couple, from Leicester, had been on their third trip to Tunisia, she told the inquest.

They had planned to relax and organise their 50th golden wedding anniversary and Mrs Fisher's 70th birthday the following year.

"These celebrations were never to be," Ms Bradley said.

Image copyright FCO handout
Image caption Angie and Ray Fisher, from Leicester, were on their third trip to Tunisia

An eyewitness saw Mr Fisher, a former engineer, as he faced his killer from a few metres away and was shot twice.

Onlooker Alan Foster told the hearing in a statement: "He was holding the gun [at] hip level when he shot."

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