Heanor man John Worcester has told of his frantic search for his new wife as a terrorist murdered innocent tourists around him.
The sales professional, 49, originally from Birmingham was on his honeymoon with new wife Sue, 48, at the RIU Imperial Marhaba when the brutal terrorist attack by Seifeddine Rezgui, 23, took place - resulting in the deaths of at least 39 people.
As all around him panicked and tried to flee the mayhem as the gunman went a warpath across a beath and into the major hotel complex, John has told of his single-minded determination to find his wife above all else, and hopes to spread heartfelt thanks to the Tunisian locals who helped him.
The Derbyshire couple were married on June 12 after being together for 10 years, says John, and the two were at a bar of the hotel in Port El Kantiaou when the shooting started.
John tells: “I was playing darts and my wife was talking to a couple a few feet away.
“When it all kicked off the first thing we thought was that it was fireworks. We even cheered.
Then there were screams, and the mood rapidly changed and everyone around them began to run, continues John: “I turned around and Sue wasn’t there.”
Witnesses have told of how Tunisian staff selflessly ushered people inside and up to rooms, but John said he couldn’t bring himself to leave the area without his wife.
He adds: “A woman next to me was shot, and I could see it was someone else.
“I know it sounds awful, but I just had one thing in my mind. I had to find her, so I went to the Foyer, into the hotel itself and the gunman sounded like he was right behind us.
It was relatively empty, I saw 20-odd people trying to cram themselves into a lift which was meant for six, I was still frantically looking around and ended up outside.
“People were running up the streets and around the corner, I started to go, and thought ‘no’ not without her – so I turned back to the front gate.
The hotel manager was there with some staff, and after what seemed like an eternity an armed security guy showed up.
“One guy in his 20s ran out of the hotel towards us, blond curly hair, trying to get out. He was shot down to the ground. We all ducked down. The shots were deafening, they were that loud. Then another woman right by him, as she was trying to escape.
He was coming towards us and the staff were so absolutely amazing. They were shouting at him, at one point they were throwing stones at him.”
Joining other reports that staff formed human shields for residents at the hotel, John confirms that the gunman seemed to avoid shooting local people, and moved on quickly afterwards – so John puts the fact he is still alive in the hands of those staff those daring hotel employees.
They stayed where they were until the police arrived, but John says the shooting was still going on as he went back into the hotel.
“Some of the staff went in, and I followed them. I was inspecting the bodies and still looking for Sue. There was one guy playing dead with two other bodies beside him. He wouldn’t move, so I covered him up with a towel to keep the sun off him and said I’d get help. Then we heard more gunshots and everybody got cleared out again. The gunman must have come back out on the beach.”
Footage confirms Rezgui, a student from Tunisia, left the first hotel and ran through the neighbouring Bellevue Park hotel, part of the same RIU complex towards the main street where he was intercepted by police and shot dead.
It was some hours later, after many of the staff had offered to help John look for Sue, that the two were fortunately reunited, and Sue was safe and well.
“She had hid in a room and barricaded herself with 10 other people. I went around the hotel shouting out her name. She’d come down to the restaurant area, one of the reps was asking her “who are you missing”, and we saw each other and cried.
“The staff were brilliant all the way through,” adds John. “While it was taking place they were protecting us, and afterwards they were doing everything for us even though a lot of them had been told there was no longer a position for them at the hotel. I feel so sorry for them. They’ve had this happen and some of them arelosing their jobs.
“But they kept serving us anyway, right up until midnight when we left. They had families of their own they wanted to get back to, and they were looking after us
“Every single person was saying as if it was they’re fault or they were responsible.
“I just want to let people know how brilliant they were. There’s been people smashing up graves just because they’re Muslim, so you have to remember it’s not a whole people. They hate this just as much as we do. “We feel guilty for leaving them.”
The pair are traumatised by what they experienced, adds John.
“It helps to talk about it, but it’s difficult to do without crying. It was scary. We haven’t left each other’s side since it happened. And Sue, every little bang and she jumps.”
Sue was unable to speak after the harrowing events of last weekend, and said only: “It was like a bad dream.”
The couple asked to withhold their real names.