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Tunisia hotel massacre survivor says husband was a hero

A survivor of the Tunisia hotel massacre described her husband as a "hero", saying he sacrificed his life to protect her from a gunman who killed 38 tourists.

Stephen Mellor, 59, of Bodmin, Cornwall, was among 30 Britons who were killed at the Mediterranean resort of Sousse on June 26 2015.

His widow Cheryl told an inquest in to the Tunisia killings that she believed the shooter - Seifeddine Rezgui - was targeting British tourists when he opened fire at the five-star Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel.

In her statement, read out at London's Royal Courts of Justice, Mrs Mellor said: "I am only here today due to the bravery of my husband Stephen.

"We were being shot and he protected me. Stephen stayed and saved me. He sacrificed himself. Stephen is a hero to me."

Mr Mellor died after being shot in the chest and abdomen. Mrs Mellor suffered life-changing injuries and was shot in the leg and wrist.

She added: "I believe the suspect was working to a plan. He was killing mainly British tourists."

The couple, who were looking forward to retirement, were on some sun loungers when they heard a "huge bang sound" at around noon.

The shootings had begun.

Mrs Mellor recalled the gunman "looked right at us" and "seemed to enjoy looking at us squirm" as he pulled the trigger.

Mrs Mellor recalled the initial blasts were "really close" and her husband said "Oh my God, this is going, really going, down".

They could see the gunman holding a weapon that was approximately 20 inches long, as he stood at the edge of the sun loungers.

As the terrifying scene unfolded, Mr Mellor was on the ground by the sun lounger, but telling his wife: "Oh my God, I love you."

She could see the feet of a female holidaymaker who was nearby.

"I heard a shot and saw her foot jump and assumed she was shot dead," Mrs Mellor said.

The couple then looked at each other and pledged that "if one of us survive, we will tell the kids that we love them".

Mr Mellor was a proud father of three sons.

He did not live to see the recent birth of his third grandchild, a boy called Thomas Stephen, who has been named after him.

Mrs Mellor, who was in court as her statement was read out, also saw the gunman open fire on a woman who was pleading for her life.

The woman said "Please, I have got family" but he shot her anyway. He seemed to be pleased by it, according to Mrs Mellor.

When the gunman turned his attention on the couple, Mr Mellor, an engineer, told her: "Oh my God, this is it. I love you."

Shots rangs out and she recalled seeing "an orange cloud" coming from the gun and hearing a sound that was like fireworks.

She felt pain and could smell molten burning metal.

Mrs Mellor said: "He was not rushing around. He was not excitable. He appeared to be calm to me."

Witnesses have said they saw Rezgui use an automatic rifle.

Mrs Mellor said she did not see him using other weapons or a telephone. He was not wearing body armour and did not seem to be working with anyone else.

She eventually managed to lift her head over the sunlounger but she could not get to her husband. She shouted at him but he did not answer. She hoped he was unconscious.

As the shots rang out, holidaymaker Allen Pembroke, 61, scoured the beach looking for casualties in need of help. He found Mrs Mellor and reluctantly, and at her insistence, told her that her husband was dead.

She refused to leave her husband - despite Mr Pembroke's offer to carry her away. He also gave her some water.

In a statement read to the court, Mr Pembroke said: "She had a hole in her left thigh. It was bleeding quite badly so I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around her leg."

Mother-of-three Suzanne Davey, 43, of Tamworth, Staffordshire, and her partner Scott Chalkley, 42, of Chaddesden, Derby, were also on the beach when they were killed.

Ms Davey was shot in the chest and neck. Mr Chalkley, a lifelong Arsenal fan and former Royal Fusilier, was shot in the chest, abdomen and pelvis.

The couple had met while they both worked at Severn Trent Water.

The hearing was adjourned until Thursday at 10am.

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