Saturday 10 December 2016

Tunisia terror attack - The evil in the sun: Irish couple latest victims of laughing Isil killer's spree

Jody Corcoran, Ronald Quinlan & Allison Bray

Published 28/06/2015 | 02:30

HORROR IN TUNISIA: Islamic terrorist Seifeddine Rezgui on a video shown on Sky News, casually strolling down the beach with his gun — just minutes before he opened fire on innocent tourists
HORROR IN TUNISIA: Islamic terrorist Seifeddine Rezgui on a video shown on Sky News, casually strolling down the beach with his gun — just minutes before he opened fire on innocent tourists

The full horror of the Isil beach massacre continued to emerge last night, as it was revealed that an Irish couple were also among the 38 murdered holiday-makers.

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The shooting dead of Larry and Martina Hayes from Athlone, Co Westmeath, brings to three the number of Irish victims killed in the Imperial Marhaba resort in Tunisia.

A CIE bus inspector, Mr Hayes and his wife, in their mid-50s, from West Lodge in Athlone were understood to have been due to come home on Friday night - hours before the killer struck.

On Friday it was confirmed that mother-of-two Lorna Carty, from Robinstown, Co Meath, was also shot dead by gunman Seifeddine Rezgui.

Casually dressed in dark shorts, a necklace and T-shirt, Rezgui looked like any other young Tunisian among the German, British and Irish sunbathers soaking up the Mediterranean heat on one of Tunisia's long, yellow beaches. Chilling video footage emerged of him on the beach just moments before the attack. In just five minutes, armed with the black Kalashnikov he had hidden in his beach umbrella, he unleashed horror across the resort, leaving his victims dead among the deck chairs and pool loungers.

It was the worst attack of its kind in Tunisia's modern history. Islamic State claimed responsibility though authorities say Rezgui, a 24-year-old student, was not on any terrorism watch list.

Last night, Willie Collins, a close friend and former work colleague at Bus Eireann, paid tribute to Mr Hayes and his wife. He told the Sunday Independent: "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. We were colleagues and friends for years. I only met up with him 10 days ago and he told me he was going on holidays.

"Larry was a brilliant friend. He would never leave you stuck. He worked in the bus station here and on school transport. If you ever wanted something done, he had great contacts. He was an out and out gentleman. He will be a big loss to Bus Eireann as well."

Tour companies were evacuating thousands of foreign holidaymakers from Tunisia yesterday. Foreign Affairs Minister, Charlie Flanagan said this is a "tragic and difficult time" for the families and loved ones of those concerned.

He said, as of now, the Irish Embassy team was not aware of any other cases of potential concern in relation to Irish citizens. "We will continue to actively monitor the situation pending full identification of all those who have died and who have been injured," he said.

While the Tunisian authorities have declared the incident to be over, Mr Flanagan urged Irish in Tunisia to remain vigilant and to follow any instructions given by the police, tour operators and hotel staff.

Witnesses say the gunman opened fire suddenly, making his way from the beach to the pool and hotel, selecting foreigners, pursuing his victims even as they fled indoors. Rezgui was apparently well aware of the hotel's layout, a security source said. He had time to reload his rifle at least twice before he was finally confronted and shot dead by police outside the hotel.

Last night another former work colleague of Mr Hayes, local councillor John Butler told the Sunday Independent: "I knew Larry well and his wife. Lovely people. We worked alongside one another for years. It's hard to imagine them both caught up in something as horrific as that."

Sunday Independent

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