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Sousse inquests: 'Four of one family went on boys' trip and only one came back'

A woman whose son, brother and father were killed by a gunman in a Tunisian hotel has told their inquests how the terror attack "destroyed" her family.

Suzanne Richards said the deaths of Charles Patrick Evans, 78, Adrian Evans, 49 and Joel Richards, 19, had left the remaining members of her tight-knit family "broken".

The three men were among 38 people killed by extremist Seifeddine Rezgui, who opened fire at the five-star Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel on June 26 2015.

Mrs Richards fought back tears as she told their inquests that the trio were all shot dead within 12 hours of arriving in the Sousse beach resort for a "jolly boys' outing" to celebrate her youngest son Owen finishing his GCSEs.

She said: "That fatal horrific morning destroyed my family - we are broken."

Owen Richards, who was 16 at the time, survived the attack and the inquests at the Royal Courts of Justice heard parts of his police interview in which he described trying to protect his grandfather during the rampage.

The West Midlands family fled from the outdoor pool area after hearing gunshots coming from the direction of the beach.

In his interview shortly after the attack, Mr Richards described how he had been sat on a lilo in the outdoor pool when he first heard what sounded like "firecrackers, but a lot deeper".

His brother Joel, an aspiring top-flight football referee, was sat on the edge of the pool, while his uncle and grandfather were on sun loungers a short distance away.

As guests began to flee, both teenagers ran to the older men before making for the hotel.

Once inside they pressed for the lift but decided not to wait for it to arrive and ran to the indoor pool as Rezgui made his way around the corner.

Mr Richards told police: "On the way, grandad kept falling over so he was not very fast.

"I saw the person running after us and he just came around the corner.

"Clearly we knew he had caught up with us.

"Ade (Adrian) dived down and laid down. I was still holding grandad, trying to help him run."

As the gunman approached, Mr Richards and Mr Evans, known to his family as Pat, fell to the floor.

"I was hugging grandad on the floor and then I could see out of my right hand corner my brother and seeing him dive to the floor," Mr Richards said.

"Then Joel screamed - I think he shouted 'no' three times, like pleading him to stop.

"He lifted the gun up and I closed my eyes, then I heard a bunch of shots."

Mr Richards described seeing that Mr Evans was wounded before adding: "Grandad just said 'he's got me'."

Rezgui moved closer and shot Mr Evans again at close range as Mr Richards was still clinging to his grandfather.

Realising his brother was lying nearby, Mr Richards said: "I hit his foot a few times, telling him to get up.

"You could see in his eyes that he was not alive - there was no life in his eyes."

His uncle was also lying motionless a little further away and Mr Richards ran to the neighbouring Soviva hotel before being taken in an ambulance for medical treatment for a wound on his left shoulder, believed to have been caused by a bullet.

The coroner, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith, said: "It seems to me Owen behaved with extraordinary courage while trying to protect his grandfather."

Mrs Richards, reading pen portraits of her eldest son, brother and father to the court said the men had visited the Imperial Marhaba hotel several times before, including when Joel finished his GCSEs and A-Levels.

She described the last text she received from the trio was from her brother, who texted her on the morning of the attack to say they were "relaxing by the pool".

She said: "They arrived in Tunisia late on Thursday evening - within 12 hours my dad, my eldest son and my brother were killed.

"Thankfully Owen survived.

"We feel like we have been cut in half and will never get over what we have lost."

Of her eldest son, she said: "The world has lost a truly shining star."

Mr Richards, who was studying sports science at the University of Worcester, was a "popular" teenager who had become a level four football referee at the age of 18.

Mrs Richards said: "Part of me also died that day when my beautiful child was taken from me so cruelly and so unfairly."

Of her brother and the boys' godparent, Mr Evans, Mrs Richards said he had worked for Sandwell Council for more than 30 years, rising to the position of gas service manager.

Mr Evans had recently found "new love" and had been planning to go and see the Tour de France with his eldest nephew the month after they returned from Tunisia.

And speaking about her father, Mrs Richards said he was also like a "father figure" to her sons and would help them with their homework, take them to football and support the entire family.

Mrs Richards added: "How can four people go on holiday and only one come back."

The inquests also heard how Billy and Lisa Graham, from Bankfoot near Perth, in Scotland, died as they sought refuge in a corridor of the first-floor office section of the hotel.

The couple were on a trip to Sousse to celebrate Mrs Graham's 50th birthday and their 31st wedding anniversary when they were shot dead.

Mr Graham, 51, who served for 22 years in the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards, and his wife tried to escape from the gunfire by leaving the lobby through a doorway next to the reception area.

CCTV played to the court showed Rezgui, carrying his gun in one hand, later walking into the hotel lobby before a member of staff emerges from the same door near the front desk.

The gunman is seen to turn and head towards the door, gesturing at the woman with his hand rather than raising his weapon.

Witness Thomas Richards, whose evidence was read to the court by inquest counsel Jonathan Dixey, said the Grahams were among 20 to 25 people who fled into the corridor with the help of hotel staff.

He said: "There was one person, a member of staff, saying 'this way, come up here'. That was up to a service area.

"About 20 to 25 people made their way up there. Looking back it was just like she was herding cows.

"In my mind the gunman should not have known about this area.

"To my mind it's strange how he ended up in the corridor.

"During my time running from the sun lounger to the hotel, I did not see anybody being shot or injured, which is why I had the impression of him being some way behind us."

The survivor, who was with his mother, said some of the group hid in a room for between five to ten minutes before Rezgui appeared and there were more gunshots.

"I saw two people hit the floor at the bottom of the corridor," he told police officers in interview.

"Then it was almost like the waves parted."

There was an explosion, possibly caused by a grenade, and more gunshots, Mr Richards added, before Rezgui turned back on himself and several people sought refuge in the toilets.

The inquests continue on Thursday at 10am.


From Belfast Telegraph