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Tunisia terrorist attack: Swanley couple Glenn and Anita Whitehead reveal how they escaped Isis terror attack at Sousse beach resort

A married couple have revealed how they escaped death when a terrorist slaughtered 38 people at a Tunisian beach resort.

Glenn Whitehead, from Woodlands Rise in Swanley, said the only reason he and his wife Anita are alive is because their usual beach sun loungers were taken by other tourists who were killed in the attack at the Sousse resort.

Tunisia has made its first arrests over the massacre, where the British death toll is expected to double from 17 to at least 30 once identification of the victims has been completed, according to the BBC.

Glenn Whitehead, 53, a scaffolder from Woodlands Rise, Swanley who escaped death after fleeing from gun fire in a terrorist attack at a holiday resort in Tunisia
Glenn Whitehead, 53, a scaffolder from Woodlands Rise, Swanley who escaped death after fleeing from gun fire in a terrorist attack at a holiday resort in Tunisia

The couple, married for 26 years, were on the beach sunbathing when Mr Whitehead noticed a man running with what appeared to be a machine gun.

Mr Whitehead, 53, said: “First of all, I heard something that sounded like Chinese firecrackers going off so I looked up and saw this bloke running across the beach near the sunbeds.

“After that I told my wife to get up and run. We sprinted towards the hotel but I turned around and saw that my wife had fallen over.

“I ran back to make sure she was alright. There were lots of us running away. I could hear the sound of bullets going past my head.”

Tourists believed to be leaving the resort. Picture: Souhaila Baccouche
Tourists believed to be leaving the resort. Picture: Souhaila Baccouche

The pair hid in the spa of the five-star Riu Imperial Marhaba hotel with 20 to 30 others, one of whom had been shot.

“There were no locks on any of the doors,” he continued. “Every time the door opened we wondered who was coming in.

“I was looking around to see what I could use as a weapon. I grabbed a scented candle holder nearby to use.”

About 20 minutes later, Mr Whitehead said someone came into the spa saying it was okay to come out. But as they were leaving the building, someone shouted for everyone to head back inside. “We just didn’t know what was going on,” he said.

“I occasionally have flashbacks to when I saw the gunman” - Glenn Whitehead

A further ten minutes or so later, the tourists were finally led out of the building past the scene of the bloodbath.

Mr Whitehead caught sight of four dead bodies as he left the building – two covered up and two exposed.

He said they spent the rest of the day locked in their hotel room, leaving only to get food. They felt so nervous that they also put a chair up against it.

“Later on, we heard someone starting to turn the handle on our door trying to get in,” Mr Whitehead added. “There was no knock, they just kept rattling the handle.

“They said it was the police, but it could have been anyone.

“I decided to let them in and thankfully it was the police checking the rooms.

“They told us that we didn’t have to lock the door anymore, but we still did.”

Mr Whitehead said he and his wife are only alive because their usual sunbathing spot was taken by other tourists, who are now dead
Mr Whitehead said he and his wife are only alive because their usual sunbathing spot was taken by other tourists, who are now dead

Now home safe, Mr Whitehead – who works as a scaffolder – decided to take the rest of the week off to get over the turmoil. He said: “My wife has gone back to work but she has got a desk job. I’ve got to concentrate on things and I could end up causing an accident if my mind drifts back to that day.

“I occasionally have flashbacks to when I saw the gunman.”

Scotland Yard said its investigation into the attack was “likely to be one of the largest counter-terrorism deployments” since the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005, which left 52 dead.

The Met said more than 600 officers and staff are dealing with the incident.

Over 1,000 troops are to be deployed to protect the country’s beach resorts, Tunisia interior minister Mohamed Gharsalli has said.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said that further terrorist attacks in Tunisia are possible and has warned tourists in the area to be especially vigilant and to keep in touch with their tour operator.

If you are concerned about friends or family, you can call the FCO on 02070080000.


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