Couple flown home after being caught up in Tunisia massacre

A young woman lays flowers at the scene of a shooting in Sousse, Tunisia, after a lone gunman killed tens of people at the beach resort. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
A young woman lays flowers at the scene of a shooting in Sousse, Tunisia, after a lone gunman killed tens of people at the beach resort. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
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A woman has been flown home with her husband and will be having an operation on her leg after being injured in the Tunisia massacre.

The couple, named locally as Joe and Shirley Church who live in the Thorney area, have been flown home and it is understood Shirley is having an urgent operation on her leg.

People, some displaying a Tunisian flag, stand in silence next to flowers during a gathering at the scene of the attack in Sousse, Tunisia. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

People, some displaying a Tunisian flag, stand in silence next to flowers during a gathering at the scene of the attack in Sousse, Tunisia. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

Thousands of tourists have arrived back in the UK from Tunisia in the wake of Friday’s beach massacre in the country.

Holiday firms have scrambled extra flights on top of scheduled services for people seeking to flee back to Britain since the slaughter in Sousse. Flights to the country have also been cancelled.

Thomas Cook said today 1,100 people who cut short their stay in the North African country were among 3,600 who have flown back since the attack. It laid on two extra flights yesterday and another today (Sunday, June 28).

It said that none of the affected hotels were used by the firm and it had no staff or customers on them.

It is offering customers due to travel to Tunisia up to July 4 the chance to cancel or alter their booking, with those travelling after July 5 able to rebook for free.

Thomson and First Choice had 12 additional flights leaving Tunisia’s Enfidha airport today for airports including Doncaster, Cardiff, Gatwick, Stansted, Bristol, Luton, Newcastle, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, East Midlands.

Tui Group, which runs the companies, has been unable to confirm how many of the 38 people killed or injured in the shooting were its customers, but said there had been a “number of fatalities”.

Thomson advised anyone worried about friends or family to call 0800 0885372.

Jet2Holidays said it had flown home more than 600 tourists yesterday and today, with a further flight due to leave today.

A spokeswoman said chief executive Steve Heapy was due to arrive in Tunisia this afternoon “to support our existing management team both at Enfidha Airport and in Sousse, Port el Kantaoui and Skanes, ensuring that our remaining customers get the additional support they need”.

She added: “At this stage, we believe those customers remaining have chosen to continue their holidays.”

The Foreign Office has updated it’s advice for travelling to Tunisia, warning holidaymakers to be “especially vigilant”.

The advice on its website said people should not travel to the Chaambi Mountain National Park area, the Tunisia-Algeria border crossings at Ghardimaou, Hazoua and Sakiet Sidi Youssef, the militarised area south of El Borma and Dhehiba or within 5km of the Libyan border.

It added: “Further terrorist attacks in Tunisia, including in tourist resorts, are possible, including by individuals who are unknown to the authorities and whose actions are inspired by terrorist groups via social media.

“You should be especially vigilant at this time and follow the advice of Tunisian security authorities and your tour operator.”

The Association of British Travel Agents, known as Abta, estimates there are approximately 20,000 customers currently on holiday with Abta members in Tunisia.

A young tourist caught up in the Tunisian terror attacks has told of the moment a gunman burst into the hotel lobby where terrified guests had gathered.

Olivia Leathley, 24, was with her boyfriend Mike Jones in her room at the Riu Bellevue Park hotel when she heard “loud bangs” from the beach.

She said: “We heard all these really loud bangs and we joked it was probably the hotel reps letting off fireworks. We just thought they were messing around.

“We saw all these people running in from the beach. There was loads of whistles going from the reps.

“We didn’t really know what was happening so we came down to the lobby to find our Thomson rep and find out what was going on and they said ‘everybody stay here we’ll let you know what is going on’.

She said they found a woman called Saera whose partner Matthew James had apparently been shot in the stomach in front of her.

“She got dragged away by hotel reps trying to get her to safety but she was a complete mess. She was in hysterics,” she said. Later, Saera Wilson told the BBC that her fiance Matthew James had been shot three times and had threw himself in front of her to save her.

She was speaking from the hospital where he is being treated.

Ms Leathley went on: “We were all just waiting in the lobby, a few hundred of us thinking what should we do, waiting for someone to give us instructions. Then all of a sudden, from the level just below the lobby there was a huge sound of loads of machine gun fire and one of the reps just said ‘run’.

“So me and my boyfriend just sprinted for the front doors.

“I was crying and we heard the machine gun fire and it was so loud and it seemed like it was just behind us, it seemed so close.

“There were about eight of us out the front just running towards the street and then another rep said ‘not that way it’s not safe, go that way’, so we ran to the left and found this little office building on the hotel site and we ran in there and got to a room with no windows and just crouched and waited until they said it was OK.”