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Monday 15 October 2018

'We are all still devastated' - families recall holiday beach massacre terror

Gunman Seifeddine Rezgui. Photo:
Gunman Seifeddine Rezgui. Photo:
Sinead Hayes. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Laurence and Martina Hayes. Photo: Family Handout/Irish Independent
A mourner on the beach near Sousse. Photo: Getty

The families of three Irish people who were shot dead by a terrorist while on holiday in Tunisia have spoken of their "tremendous loss", and how they hope no other family will have to endure the pain they have suffered.

Meath nurse Lorna Carty (54) and Laurence Hayes (56) and wife Martina (55), from Athlone, Co Westmeath, were among 38 people who were murdered when a gunman went on a killing spree on a beach at the resort on June 26, 2015.

Dublin Coroner's Court yesterday heard harrowing evidence from Lorna Carty's husband Declan, who found her dead beneath her beach towel after he went looking for her following the gun attack.

Risks

It also heard from tourists staying at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel at Port El Kantaoui in Sousse, Tunisia, where the attack took place shortly after noon that day.

The jury returned verdicts of unlawful killing for all three deaths and recommended that a link to a Department of Foreign Affairs smartphone app alerting tourists to risks associated with travel abroad be permanently displayed on all travel websites and form an integral part of all travel bookings from now on.

Gunman Seifeddine Rezgui had disguised his Kalashnikov rifle under a parasol as he walked 700m from a parked van onto the beach where he opened fire.

The three Irish were among the first of his 38 victims.

The inquest heard the Islamic State (IS) gunman specifically targeted tourists during the 30-minute attack before he was gunned down by Tunisian authorities.

In a statement after the inquest, the Carty and Hayes families said no words could express their pain.

"We are all still devastated by the tremendous loss we have endured. We hope that no family ever has to endure the pain and tragic loss we have suffered," they said.

"We thank all of those who have been here for us over the last 32 months and who have provided support and comfort to us, they have brought us some solace during this difficult time."

The inquest also heard that before he found his wife, Mr Carty lifted a beach towel placed over a body and recognised the face of Martina Hayes.

The two couples had met each other while enjoying their stay at the hotel.

Mr Carty, who had stayed in bed to rest after his wife went down to the beach that morning, told how after waking to the sounds of gunfire, he left the room and met a staff member who was "in a panic".

"She turned white. She was pointing at the key in my hand, she'd no English. There were other guests there and we ran to my room and stayed there for the duration," he said.

"There was glass crashing, I could hear a bullet ricocheting. There was shooting and it went on for a while."

Anniversary

Giving evidence, Sinead Hayes (33), the only child of Martina and Laurence Hayes, said the couple went on holiday to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

"They were due to fly back into Dublin at midnight on June 26, a Friday. Unfortunately, they never got to fly back," she said.

The inquest also heard from guest Rachel Godber. She and her family were due to check out of the hotel on June 26.

She hid her children in the step well of a desk in an office near the hotel lobby.

"There was panic in the room. It was crowded. I could hear gunfire and explosions. At one stage there was banging on the door," she said.

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