Two Northumberland couples who were caught up in the chaos and terror in Tunisia last week have shared their horrifying experiences.
Last Friday, in the coastal resort of Sousse, Seiffeddine Rezgui killed 38 people in a gun and grenade assault at Imperial Marhaba beach hotel before being shot dead.
Among the Britons present at the shocking incident were Paul and Sarah Short, from Wooler, and Julie Duffell and her partner Ian Jennison, from Cramlington.
Paul, an ex-Territorial soldier, has been hailed a hero for his actions after helping other tourists caught up in the attack.
He and Sarah were on the beach when they heard what sounded like fireworks.
Paul realised what was happening and shepherded people from the beach into the restaurant before directing them to their rooms. He took Sarah to their room and told her to stay there before heading back out.
In an interview with ITV, he described how he went out and saw three bodies nearby, two were already dead, but the third – a man – was still moving. “I went up to concentrate on the guy because I wanted to try to save his life,” he said.
The victim was bleeding really badly from a wound on his leg with blood running down the steps.
Paul put a tourniquet on and pushed a towel into the wound while telling him to be quiet as the gunman was still nearby. The man’s wife was already dead, but Paul ‘didn’t want to tell him’.
Paul and another ex-Army man called Keith then watched as the terrorist, who had stopped shooting, took photos of the bodies and laughed.
At this point, a deaf, older man came into the lobby shouting for his wife, attracting the attention of the gunman. Mr Short said: “I ran up to the old guy, the first bullet missed the guy and I pulled him behind the column.”
He managed to get the old man into a room and hid under a chair before the attacker ‘launched a grenade and killed two or three people to the left of me’.
Sarah told Good Morning Britain: “After he left me in the room and closed the door, there were two gunshots and I thought that was him and Keith. Basically, until I saw him again, I thought he was dead.
“When he came around, I actually gave him wrong for leaving me, but I knew what he had done was the right thing for Paul because that’s just the sort of person he is. He just thinks about other people before he thinks about himself.”
Julie and Ian had been staying in the adjoining Bellevue Park Hotel and feared for their lives when they heard bullets ring out and saw people rushing for cover.
Now, after returning home to Cramlington, they are keen to help the staff in the resort who risked their lives to protect guests, some creating human barricades to stop the gunman going further into the resort.
Julie, 49, said: “Ian was lying by the pool and I was just washing my hands in the toilet when the gunfire started. I heard screaming and loads of loud bangs, it was terrifying.
“I came out and everyone was running into the hotel. People were in hysterics, it was horrific.
“We thought we were going to die, that they were going to come for us room to room.
“We locked ourselves in the room and we could see armed police and a helicopter and we didn’t know if it was the terrorists or the police, we didn’t know what was happening.
“The two hotels are adjoining and we are so lucky to be alive. We came so close and we are so lucky he didn’t come further down to our hotel.”
The couple have set up a fund-raising page with a goal of raising £20,000 to help the staff from the two hotels –
Ian said: “We have been to Tunisia six times staying at the Bellevue for the fourth time when this atrocity occurred.
“We love Tunisia and the people and will hopefully be returning again next year.
“The staff there will now have no income because of this, and we want to help them as they did us.
“They risked their lives to save ours so the least we can do is help give them something to live off. This is our way of saying thank you to them, as they went towards the gunfire to protect us.”
Julie added: “The truth is if we had booked for two weeks we would still be there, you can’t live your life in fear and we won’t let the terrorists win.
“It was horrific and it’s not something I ever want to go through again, but that’s the world we live in now and you can’t hide away in case something happens.”