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 husband Philip, then 53, died in the attack near Sousse. The pair, from Suffolk, had been on their 30th wedding anniversary holiday.
Mrs Heathcote’s statement was being read at the inquest into the deaths of 30 Britons killed by Islamist gunman Seifeddine Rezgui on 26 June.
The couple, who have a son, had arrived at the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel the day before the attack.
Mrs Heathcote, who was seriously injured by the gunman, did not attend the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
In a statement read on her behalf, she described feeling “pure fear” as Rezgui wounded her, killed her husband, then walked away to murder others. She and Mr Heathcoate were on the beach where Rezgui launched his attack and had “dived into the sand between the sun beds”, but were found by the gunman. She added: “I stayed laying on the sand, trying not to move and draw attention to the fact that I was still alive.”
Didn’t Make It
Once the gunshots faded, Mrs Heathcote said she asked her husband if he was ok. “At the first opportunity I was asking Phil if he was alright and I realised he had not made it,” she said.
Mrs Heathcote, who lived with her husband in Felixstowe, was shot in the arm and abdomen and spent a month in an induced coma, the inquest heard. “I was conscious that I had been shot elsewhere but do not remember bleeding.”
The inquest is set to hear evidence about each of the 30 Britons killed in the attack.
Who Were The British Victims?
Ex-police officer Michael Perry, who went to Tunisia with wife Angela, was one survivor to address the inquest 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 from the witness box. “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. “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, when questioned by the lawyer for the victims’ families, Andrew Ritchie. “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.