Update: Tributes paid as brother-in-law confirms Felixstowe man Philip Heathcote was killed in Tunisia beach massacre
- Credit: Archant
It has been confirmed that Philip Heathcote, 52, of Felixstowe, is among the British fatalities of Friday’s Sousse beach shooting.
Mr Heathcote, 52, and his wife Allison Heathcote, 48, should have been celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary today at the resort of Sousse, on the northeast coast of Tunisia.
Instead, Mrs Heathcote is in hospital fighting for her life after being shot five times and carried off the blood-soaked sands on a sunlounger in the aftermath of Friday’s terror attack.
And this evening, Mr Heathcote, originally from Manchester and like his wife a well-known face in the Felixstowe cricket community, was named as a victim of the shootings. The news confirmed the worst fears of the Heathcote family.
A total of 38 people, including up to 30 Britons, died after 23-year-old student Seifeddine Rezgui opened fire on the beach crowded with sunbathers during the resort’s peak tourism season.
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His killing spree ended when he was shot dead by police. The self-proclaimed Islamic State later claimed responsibility.
On Sunday night, Mr and Mrs Heathcote’s son James, 24, and his uncle Jonty Boon – Mrs Heathcote’s youngest brother – flew out to Tunisia.
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In a statement issued today, Simon Boon, a younger brother of Mrs Heathcote, said: “I have spoken to my nephew, James, and Philip has now been identified and confirmed as one of those who sadly died as a result of the shooting.
“Allison and Philip were due to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary today. For 30 years, Philip has shown my sister love, care and loyalty that was second to none.
“Philip was truly Allison’s soulmate and they did everything together, sharing the same interests life offered. Philip was without question a member of our family that everyone dearly loved and enjoyed so many good times with.
“We will, along with his family in Manchester, deeply grieve this terrible loss.”
Mr Boon, 46, of Otley, explained that Mrs Heathcote underwent surgery lasting around six hours to rebuild her upper arm, which was “left shattered in 18 pieces” after being shot twice.
She was also shot three times in the abdomen, but they all missed her vital organs. She was left in a medically induced coma.
Mr Boon added: “She is currently stabilised, but at this time will remain in Tunisia at the advice of the hospital. Her brother (Jonty Boon) has told me that the hospital and the treatment she has received have been exceptional and we thank them all.
“We are all extremely proud of Allison and the courage she has shown as she fights for her life. I am expecting to join other family members in Tunisia tomorrow.
“I would now ask, as a family, that we are given total privacy to grieve Philip’s loss and focus fully on helping Allison in what will be a huge rehabilitation process physically, mentally and emotionally.
“I would like to thank everyone for their concern and best wishes.”
The couple were widely regarded as stalwarts of the cricket community in Felixstowe.
Over the last 25 years, Mrs Heathcote was secretary of Felixstowe Cricket Club, Felixstowe Corinthians Cricket Club and Felixstowe and Corinthians Youth Cricket Club.
She was also the secretary of the Two Counties Cricket League, which covers Suffolk and north Essex, a position from which she retired on Tuesday last week – the day before the couple flew out to Tunisia for a two-week stay.
Bob Wilson, president of Felixstowe Corinthians Cricket Club, said: “She is a fighter all right. She is very strong and has that spirit to fight and hopefully come through all this.”
Meanwhile, Mr Heathcote joined Felixstowe Corinthians Cricket Club as a fast-medium bowler in the early 1990s and left around 10 years ago and started coaching youngsters.
Mr Wilson added: “Philip was a good and loyal cricketer. He was a bit fiery. He wanted to win games all the time, which was fair enough. He was still a coach at the junior level.
“He was reliable, well-respected and we had a good laugh together.
“This is a disastrous thing to have happened. I just cannot believe it. You go on a holiday to lay on a beach and enjoy yourself…but there you go.”
Felixstowe mayor Doreen Savage paid tribute following the “appalling tragedy”.
She said: “It is just unbelievable for something like that to happen anyway, but for it to touch our home town in this way and involve people everybody knows are cares about is just shocking.
“They are both people that many people know in Felixstowe. It is just dreadful. I can’t begin to imagine how the family must be feeling.
“I send my sincere condolences to Mrs Heathcote and her family. I am truly sorry, and if there is anything any of us can do when she hopefully comes home, we will be there for her and her family.”