A Dublin woman on holiday in Sousse in Tunisia when a gunman struck has told of how a terrified woman ran into their hotel screaming that her husband had been shot.
Marian King (53), from Lucan, said she barricaded herself inside a bedroom in her hotel as wild gunfire raged outside the window, and she feared a gunman could be stalking the corridor outside.
Marian was about to check out of the hotel on Friday when Seifeddine Rezgui (24) opened fire with a Kalashnikov assault rifle. He killed 38 tourists including Larry and Martina Hayes from Athlone in Co Westmeath, and Lorna Carty from Robinstown Co Meath.
“We were in our hotel, the Bellview, which is nextdoor, a sister hotel to the Marhaba Hotel, and we were on our way down to the beach at the time it happened,” said Marian, who was on holidays with her partner and two teenage children.
“What we witnessed was the ensuing chaos, rather than the actual attack itself.
“We were about to check-out and it was near 12pm. The first time that I was aware that there was anything wrong was on the way to the lobby and there were people looking out the window and someone said it seemed somebody had been shot on the beach.
“When I got into the actual lobby itself a British lady came running in screaming that her husband had been shot and he was lying on a sun-bed on the beach covered in blood and she didn’t know if he was alive or dead,” she said. “This lady was frantically running from one staff member to the next trying to get some help, but a lot of the staff didn’t have enough English to understand what she was saying because she was obviously in a state of panic.
“She wanted to get back out to go down to the beach. She kept saying ‘I need to know if he’s dead or alive’ and she kept trying to get out to go and see if he was alive.”
At this point Marian knew something was very wrong.
“People were rushing into the hotel from the beach area so the hotel staff couldn’t let the woman back out again for her own safety.
“And then at that point the hotel staff told us to go back to our own hotel rooms for our own security,” she said.
“Our room was locked at that point, because our key had deactivated as it was past check-out time, so we went into a room a few doors up which belonged to another Irish couple that we had become friendly with.
“As soon as we went in complete panic broke out. There was a stampede of people up the corridor screaming ‘He has a gun’ and running frantically banging on doors and pleading to be let into rooms for safety,” Marian said.
At this stage the terrified tourists didn’t know how many gunmen there were, or if any of them were in the hotel.
“We locked ourselves into the room with a British couple and a Tunisian chambermaid, and we locked ourselves into the bathroom and stayed there for over an hour just being completely silent,” she said.
“We could hear people in the corridor and we didn’t know who they were.
“Our belief was that it could be someone with guns, but after about an hour and a few phone calls from the chambermaid to reception we came out of the bathroom into the bedroom and turned on the TV and began to see reports,” she said.
“But most of the information we were getting was actually from Ireland. My children were getting stuff on the internet with their phones.
“The first we thought that it might be terrorist related was when we heard there had been an attack in France as well,” she told the Today programme with Sean O’Rourke on RTE radio.
“There had been a huge gun battle outside the window, so we knew it was major. We were in complete shock to be honest,” she added.
Marian has since found out that the British woman’s husband survived his wounds.