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Saturday 3 December 2016

'Both were in great form' - Tragic couple's final phonecall to daughter before Tunisia attack

*Larry and Martina brutally gunned down as they strolled along beach
*Couple were about to leave for the airport
*Taoiseach describes attack as 'appalling'

Mark O'Regan and Caroline Crawford

Published 29/06/2015 | 02:30

Larry and Martina Hayes
Larry and Martina Hayes
A man prays after laying flowers on the beach in Sousse, Tunisia, where 38 people, including three Irish tourists, were killed in a terrorist attack
Armed police patrol Marhaba beach, in Sousse, Tunisia, where 38 people were killed in a terrorist attack on Friday. Photo: Getty
A tourist mourns at a makeshift memorial to the victims of the beach massacre in Tunisia. Photo: Getty
Lorna Carty
Joel Richards

An Irish couple killed in the Tunisian massacre were "waiting around" on the beach for their bus transfer to the airport when the gunman opened fire.

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The family of Larry (56), and Martina Hayes (55), from Athlone, Co Westmeath, have spoken of their devastation, after the couple were brutally gunned down as they strolled along the seafront.

It was only a matter of minutes before they were due to leave the coastal town of Sousse after a week-long sun holiday. It was the third time Mr Hayes, a CIE bus inspector, and his wife of 32 years had holidayed in the area.

The family have been struggling to come to grips with the tragedy, Mr Hayes brother Michael said.

"We're dealing with it the best way we can. Both sides of the family are trying to get through this whole nightmare. It's very tough for everyone," he said.

Read more: Fanatical adherence to any set of beliefs generates evil

Tunisian security forces secure the area after gunmen attacked Tunis' famed Bardo Museum on March 18, 2015. At least seven foreigners and a Tunisian were killed in an attack by two men armed with assault rifles on the museum, the interior ministry said. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAIDFETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images
Tunisian security forces secure the area after gunmen attacked Tunis' famed Bardo Museum on March 18, 2015. At least seven foreigners and a Tunisian were killed in an attack by two men armed with assault rifles on the museum, the interior ministry said. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAIDFETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images
Armed Tunisian policemen in plainclothes stop a vehicle as security forces secure the area after gunmen attacked Tunis' famed Bardo Museum on March 18, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAIDFETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images
An armed Tunisian policeman in plainclothes stops a vehicle as security forces secure the area after gunmen attacked Tunis' famed Bardo Museum on March 18, 2015. At least seven foreigners and a Tunisian were killed in an attack by two men armed with assault rifles on the museum, the interior ministry said. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAIDFETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images
Tunisian security forces secure the area after gunmen attacked Tunis' famed Bardo Museum on March 18, 2015. At least seven foreigners and a Tunisian were killed in an attack by two men armed with assault rifles on the museum, the interior ministry said. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAIDFETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images
Tunisian security forces secure the area after gunmen attacked Tunis' famed Bardo Museum on March 18, 2015. At least seven foreigners and a Tunisian were killed in an attack by two men armed with assault rifles on the museum, the interior ministry said. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAIDFETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images
Tunisian security forces secure the area after gunmen attacked Tunis' famed Bardo Museum on March 18, 2015. At least seven foreigners and a Tunisian were killed in an attack by two men armed with assault rifles on the museum, the interior ministry said. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAIDFETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images
Tunisian security forces secure the area after gunmen attacked Tunis' famed Bardo Museum on March 18, 2015. At least seven foreigners and a Tunisian were killed in an attack by two men armed with assault rifles on the museum, the interior ministry said. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAIDFETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images
Tunisian security forces secure the area after gunmen attacked Tunis' famed Bardo Museum on March 18, 2015. At least seven foreigners and a Tunisian were killed in an attack by two men armed with assault rifles on the museum, the interior ministry said. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAIDFETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images

Read more: British death toll in Tunisia massacre expected to double to at least 30

Larry was described as an ordinary family man who was well liked by everybody, and his wife as being extremely warm and friendly.

A man prays after laying flowers on the beach in Sousse, Tunisia, where 38 people, including three Irish tourists, were killed in a terrorist attack
A man prays after laying flowers on the beach in Sousse, Tunisia, where 38 people, including three Irish tourists, were killed in a terrorist attack

"They had travelled to Tunisia a number of times, and enjoyed everything about the country," said Michael.

Their only daughter, Sinead (30), had phoned her parents less than 24 hours before the killing to hear how they were enjoying their latest holiday in the country.

A tourist mourns at a makeshift memorial to the victims of the beach massacre in Tunisia.
Photo: Getty
A tourist mourns at a makeshift memorial to the victims of the beach massacre in Tunisia. Photo: Getty

"Both were in great form, and were having a great time. They were due to fly home the following day (after the call)," he said.

Meath woman Lorna Carty also died in Friday's atrocity. Her family still do not know when her body will be repatriated back to Ireland.

Read more: Travel Expert: 'Irish holidaymakers don't like being told that they can't go somewhere'

Her son Simon, an inter- county footballer with Meath, has flown out to the resort to support his grief-stricken father Declan.

Close family friend, Meath Fine Gael TD Ray Butler, said they initially believed the process would move along quicker than has been the case.

"The consulate and the officials are doing all they can," he said. "Her husband is devastated. He has to try to get Lorna home. Simon, their son, flew out to be with his father on Saturday."

Read more: 'He was roaring at the top of his head and letting the gun go off... I was terrified to move'

Meanwhile, Michael Hayes revealed some family members were unaware that Larry and Martina were back in one of their favourite holiday destinations until they were given the devastating news of their deaths on Saturday. The shooting started on the beach outside the Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba, where the couple were staying.

Concern about their whereabouts was first raised at around 4pm on Friday afternoon when they were due to return from Tunisia.

However, it only became clear on Saturday evening that they were among 38 people, including several European holidaymakers, who were victims of the terror attack.

"The last time I spoke to Larry was a few weeks ago, when I met him on the street," Michael said. "We spoke very briefly. He was in good form, but he actually didn't say a word about their upcoming break.

"They were due to fly back to Ireland on Friday night - in all likelihood on the same flight as the other Irish lady who was killed.

"News started filtering through late on Friday and early on Saturday. As the day went on, it became clear to us what had happened.

"At first Larry and Martina were unaccounted for - but then the awful news of what had happened to them was confirmed.

Read more: Gunned down as they waited to come home

"It's still unclear, but we believe they were walking near the beach waiting for their airport transfer. I don't know if they received any medical attention at the scene after they were shot.

"Larry spent all his life in Athlone and was well liked by everybody. It's such a terrible tragedy."

Mr Hayes, a Bus Éireann schools transport inspector, had worked for 20 years with the company, based in Athlone. Known as 'Lonnie' to close family and friends, Larry began his career working as a bus driver in Galway.

Willie Collins, a close friend and former colleague, paid tribute to the couple.

"You couldn't ask for a nicer friend or colleague. I know that's something that's often said but it couldn't be more true," he said.

Bus Éireann extended its sympathies and condolences to Larry's family and friends, and said he was highly regarded on both a personal and professional level by all his colleagues.

Read more: Visitors urged to exercise 'extreme caution'

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the couple's daughter at this difficult time, and all the extended family," it added in a statement.

Martina, whose maiden name is Kelly, is originally from Carrick, Kiltoom, Co Roscommon. It is understood the couple moved to Athlone's West Lodge estate over a year ago.

Michael - who wanted to thank the gardaí and the Department of Foreign Affairs for their professionalism when dealing with the family and Sinead's friend Irene for her support - said the family's attention had turned to getting the couple's remains home.

"We want them home as soon as possible," he added.

Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin extended his condolences to the family and friends of Larry and Martina.

"I was very sad to hear that Larry and Martina Hayes, parishioners of our diocese, were among those whose lives were stolen from them in a mindless act of violence in Tunisia. I offer my deepest sympathies and prayers to their daughter, their extended family and their neighbours and friends," he said.

Read more: Extremists ruined my son, says father of beach gunman

Taoiseach Enda Kenny described the Tunisian terror attack as 'appalling'.

Mr Kenny said his sympathies went out to the families of the three Irish victims, Lorna Carty and  Laurence (Larry) and Martina Hayes.

“It’s appalling and my sympathies and the sympathies of everybody go to the families of the three Irish people who lost their lives here.

“This is an act of terrorism and racism. That people from all over the world would go to a country to enjoy holidays, enjoy the sunshine and have havoc and tragedy wreaked upon them by fundamentalists, which is just appalling,” he added.

Speaking in Castlebar this morning, Mr Kenny said the Government would do everything it could to assist the families affected.

“Obviously the Government here, the Minister for Foreign Affairs will make every effort available to bring consolation, understanding and support for the families involved but we can never bring them back from the point where they went on their holidays,” he added.

Lorna Carty

Lorna Carty's devastated husband is preparing to fly her body home.

The mother-of-two was the first Irish victim to be identified in the horror attack in Tunisia last Friday, which claimed the lives of 38 tourists.

Lorna, from Robinstown in Co Meath, worked as a nurse in a private practice in nearby Navan, and has been hailed by friends as a "beautiful woman".

The 53-year-old was holidaying with her husband Declan, who was recovering from recent heart surgery.

Lorna.jpg  

Mrs Carty, who is originally from Kilmessan, was described as a loving mother and a beautiful woman who was heavily involved with the local Dunderry GAA club, where her husband is also the treasurer.

She provided medical assistance to the teams, and her family is also heavily involved in the Kilmessan hurling club.

The couple were enjoying their last day on holiday when the tragedy struck.

Declan, a dairy farmer, is believed to have been relaxing in their hotel room while Lorna was enjoying some time on the beach when the gunman struck.

The couple's son Simon (21) is part of the Meath senior football panel and their daughter Hazel recently completed her Leaving Certificate. Hazel was also on holiday, in Turkey, when her mother was gunned down. Simon has since flown out to Tunisia to support his father.

There has been an outpouring of grief and tributes for the mother, and her heartbroken family and friends said that she was a "real lady" and "loved by everyone".

Dunderry GAA club have cancelled all matches and training until further notice due to the tragic loss. Emma Jane Hade

Read more: Police search for accomplices who helped attacker prepare for brutal mass shooting

Larry and Martina Hayes

Larry and Martina Hayes, from Athlone, Co Westmeath, had been married for 32 years and had one daughter, Sinead.

Larry (56), a CIE bus inspector, and Martina, his 55-year-old wife, were on a week-long holiday in the coastal town of Sousse.

They met at a dance over three decades ago.

LarryMartina Hayes.jpg  

A plasterer by trade, Larry had been working with Bus Éireann for 20 years. He began his career on the Galway-Longford route, before transferring back to Athlone where he became a transport inspector.

Martina, whose maiden name is Kelly, is originally from Carrick, Kiltoom, Co Roscommon.

A housewife for many years, she had previously worked in the retail sector in Athlone town.

It is understood the couple moved to the town's West Lodge estate over a year ago.

The shooting started on the beach outside the Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba, where they were staying.

The family say it is still unclear whether the couple received medical attention in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

Larry's brother, Seamus, ran a well-known music shop in Athlone for many years, while another brother, Michael, works in Eircom.

The deceased couple were regularly seen walking their pet dog. "Their dog meant an awful lot to them and it brought them a lot of happiness," explained Larry's brother Michael.

He described Larry as a "great man" who was regularly seen driving around Athlone in his red van. "That was his work van and it became his trademark around town. He loved his job and was an extremely hard worker."

One neighbour living in the West Lodge estate paid tribute to the couple last night: "They were always friendly and would salute if they walked past you in the street. They were a lovely couple and Martina was extremely friendly and warm. It's such a desperate tragedy." Mark O'Regan

Joel Richards

The GAA community in Birmingham has paid an emotional tribute to Joel Richards, one of the tourists shot dead in the massacre in Tunisia.

James Connolly GAA club said the 22-year-old was an extremely talented footballer who would be missed by all.

His uncle Adrian Evans and grandfather Patrick Evans were also killed in the attack while his 16-year-old brother Owen is reported to have survived.

The club said a match scheduled for yesterday was cancelled as a mark of respect.

11402931 848776641826184 3.jpg  

The Warwickshire-based GAA club said: "We are devastated to learn of the death of one of our players, Joel Richards, during the horrific attack in Tunisia. Joel was an exceptionally talented footballer, who represented both club and county with conviction on numerous occasions.

"He won an all-Britain Under-16 Championship medal with Warwickshire and was one of the finest goalkeepers to play in the county at underage level.

"He was also a very handy half-back and a lovely lad. His uncle and grandad were at every match."

Also a keen soccer referee, Joel was an active member of Birmingham County FA's youth council. In a statement, Birmingham FA said: "Joel was a young, talented referee with the world at his feet; he was highly thought of and will be sadly missed.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this tragic time." Adam Cullen

Irish Independent

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