Paris survivor: 'People were being murdered above our heads'

Mariesha Payne
Image caption Mariesha Payne was in Paris to watch US band Eagles of Death Metal

A woman who survived the attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris has spoken of the terrifying hours she spent trapped in the building's cellar. Mariesha Payne, from Aberuthven, Perthshire, was near the stage when the gunmen started firing and she realised something was very wrong.

"It was just this quick succession of bullets - this popping, cracking noise and I think a lot of people thought it was fireworks, it was just part of the show.

"There was a bit of a gasp and the band stopped playing because they were a bit confused, and it happened again.

"I said to Christine: 'It's gunfire, run!' And I just pushed her.

"At this point I looked over and that's when I saw [the bullets] were hitting the stage below where the lead singer's feet were. He ran, we just ran, but I think the initial reaction for a lot of people was to duck.

"I just knew we were under attack. I didn't think it was a firework or part of the show... one minute everyone's singing, dancing, having a great time to then just screaming. But we just ran. Your instinct was: get out of the building."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Almost 90 people were killed at the concert hall

Mariesha and her friend Christine Tudhope ran through a "maze" of several rooms before reaching a wall where they could have run left or right.

"It was in my head - are we running into gunfire? Is someone going to be covering the exit? What do we do? We were just confused at this point.

"There was just screams and there was gunfire going off. So we ran right and we ended up in a room. It was an equipment room with boxes and things lying about. There was a bit of an alcove in the wall which we backed into.

"There were a few other doors that we tried - one was a cupboard and one was locked. There were a couple of stairs, we ran up the stairs and the door opened and we just ran in.

'Bodies hitting floor'

"A motion sensor light came on and we jumped out of our skin with the buzz of the light. We ran in and then realised this is a cellar and we're trapped - there's just no way out of here.

"As we went to run out, the door just flew open and two guys came running and I think we gasped and said 'No', and then we realised it wasn't gunmen, it was two people in the exact same situation as us.

"All we could hear at that point was a stampede. People running and screaming, gunfire and thuds which could only have been people hitting the floor - their bodies hitting the floor.

"People were being murdered just above our heads."

The two Scottish women and the Italian men who had run into the room after them were trapped in the room for about three hours in complete darkness. They were too scared to talk and only communicated by typing out messages on their phones.

"Just before [we got out] there was a lot of very heavy automatic gun fire, a few loud bangs. There was one very, very loud bomb being detonated, which we think was very close above our head to where we were sitting.

"We heard somebody speaking English. It wasn't an English accent, but they were shouting: 'Are you really the police? Are you the police?'

"And the police were shouting: 'This is really the police!'

'No sudden movements'

"That's when the two Italian guys told us the police were outside and they started shouting through the door, saying there were two men and two women in this room - get us out of here!

"We were given instructions as to what to do and the guys were relaying this back to us.

"[We were told] don't make any attempt to go near the door. Don't try and open the door, stay calm and do exactly what they say.

"We're going to have to stand in front of them one at a time, lift our tops up to make sure we don't have any bombs or anything on us and follow their instructions. One of [the instructions] was don't look down. No sudden movements, nothing.

"They also said there were bodies outside the room. When we got outside the room, there was blood everywhere.

"These police officers, Swat team - I don't know what they were - we could only see their eyes, they were completely covered.

"Then there was one which didn't have a mask or anything and he told me he was going to march me outside. We would be put up against a wall, we were going to be patted down, they needed to look in our bags.

"He then said to me: You're safe. You're safe and you can cry.'

"He was actually quite comforting and I kept saying: 'Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.'

"We just couldn't believe we were out of there."

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