Widow of Tunisia attack victim Philip Heathcote “played dead” after being shot by beach gunman

Philip Heathcote.

Philip Heathcote. - Credit: Archant

The widow of a man killed in the Tunisia terror attack has described how she “played dead” after they were both gunned down as they relaxed on a 30th wedding anniversary holiday, during an inquest into her husband’s death.

Allison and Philip Heathcote, from Felixstowe, had only arrived in the Mediterranean resort of Sousse the day before gunman Seifeddine Rezgui killed 38 tourists at the five-star Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel on June 26, 2015.

Mrs Heathcote said she lay still on the sand after being shot five times by Rezgui as she and her husband, 53, relaxed on sunbeds, in a statement read to the inquest at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Describing how she experienced “pure fear” she said that, as she lay wounded, the killer walked away, before she then heard the gunshots getting closer again.

She said: “I was fearing for my life. I stayed laying on the sand, trying not to move and draw attention to the fact that I was still alive.

“I decided my best chance of survival was to play dead.”

She added: “At the first opportunity I was asking Philip if he was all right. There was no response from Philip and I realised he had not made it.”

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Mrs Heathcote, then 48, was shot in the arm and abdomen and spent a month in an induced coma, the inquest heard.

In her statement she said she experienced a “stinging pain” after being shot in the arm. But she had not initially realised how badly she had been hurt, putting it down to the fear and adrenaline.

The hearing was told that the couple, who have a 27-year-old son James, had become engaged six weeks after meeting in 1985.

Mr Heathcote, who worked as a traffic operator for Goldstar Transport, was a keen rugby and cricket player in his youth and had continued as a cricket coach for local children in Suffolk, as well as a league umpire.

He also loved to watch his son play sports and talk about the games he had played in.

Originally from Manchester, Mr Heathcote was also a lifelong Manchester United fan, the inquest heard.

Mr Heathcote died from gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen, the inquest heard.

Fellow holidaymaker, retired Leicestershire Police chief superintendent Michael Perry, who was on a nearby sunbed, said he saw Rezgui on the beach brandishing a “military type of assault rifle”.

Mr Perry, whose 30-year career included firearms training, said Rezgui seemed to be firing in “a rather uncontrolled manner”, suggesting he had the gun in automatic mode, where one squeeze of the trigger would result in a hail of bullets but made aiming harder.

The Briton described “a lot of hysteria, panic, running around” as the attack unfolded, adding that the hotel’s handful of unarmed security guards would not have been able to stop what happened.

Mr Perry, who was on holiday with his wife Angela, said the men seemed mostly there to stop people getting into the all-inclusive hotel without the correct wristbands, adding: “I wouldn’t have called them guards.”