Derbyshire couple’s show of strength as they stay put in terror-torn Tunisia

Steven and Brenda Heathcote were at the neighbouring Riviera hotel when the incident took place
Steven and Brenda Heathcote were at the neighbouring Riviera hotel when the incident took place

A Langley Mill couple who witnessed the aftermath of Friday’s terrorist attack in Tunisia have spoken of their refusal to leave the country, which they say would be ‘letting the terrorists win’.

Brenda and Steven Heathcote were on holiday at The Riviera Hotel in Sousse - just metres away from the beach where Seigeddine Rezgui attacked sunbathing holidaymakers on Friday, leaving at least 38 people dead.

The couple joined others in leaving a flower tribute at the site on Monday (June 29).

The couple joined others in leaving a flower tribute at the site on Monday (June 29).

But the grandparents of two, who moved to Langley Mill a year ago after living in Matlock for 30 years, have decided to stay until the end of the end of their holiday on Sunday as a show of strength and to support all their friends at the hotel – which they call their second home.

Speaking online from their hotel, Steven said: “We heard a lot of commotion going off and then police on horses started galloping towards the scene.

“We couldn’t really make anything out as it was far enough away down the beach. There was a lot of Tunisian people shouting down phones and one bloke told us that someone had shot someone, leading us to believe it was just a tiff between two people.

“We didn’t actually realise the full extent until we got back to the hotel. They cordoned off parts of the beach so we knew something bad had happened. It’s scary but they are keeping us safe.

In this screen grab taken from video provided by Tunisia TV1, injured people are treated on a Tunisian beach Friday June 26, 2015. Two gunmen rushed from the beach into a hotel in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse Friday, killing at least 27 people and wounding six others in the latest attack on the North African country's key tourism industry, the Interior Ministry said. (Tunisia TV1 via AP MANDATORY CREDIT

In this screen grab taken from video provided by Tunisia TV1, injured people are treated on a Tunisian beach Friday June 26, 2015. Two gunmen rushed from the beach into a hotel in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse Friday, killing at least 27 people and wounding six others in the latest attack on the North African country's key tourism industry, the Interior Ministry said. (Tunisia TV1 via AP MANDATORY CREDIT

“They have upped their security across the whole of the hotel and the beach.”

Brenda, 56, a retired social services provider, said: “It is very subdued here, it’s gone downhill – most of the tourists have given up and left, but we’re staying put.

“At the end of the day, terrorism happens everywhere, and when it happened in London people didn’t give up and move away.

“We’ve been coming to the Riviera about twice times a year for the past few years. We know many of the staff by name, even the guys working the sun beds on the beach.”

SITE Intelligence Group picture believed to be of gunman Seifeddine Rezgui.  PRESS ASSOCIATION

SITE Intelligence Group picture believed to be of gunman Seifeddine Rezgui. PRESS ASSOCIATION

Brenda has Fibromyalgia and visits the hot climate for some therapeutic vitamin D.

Steven, 58, an engineer for bus operator Trentbarton said: “We’re not going to let them win. The local people keep coming up to us and apologising, but they have nothing to be sorry for. It’s not their fault.”

His wife shared those sentiments, saying: “Other people are saying they’ll never come back to Tunisia, but we think that’s stupid, and we’re standing by them.”

Their Daughter Gemma Richardson, 32, a mother-of two who works in security, said the wait to hear from her parents was absolute hell.

She said: “I didn’t hear from them. I saw the news on my Facebook screen and instantly messaged them. We had been keeping touch online, and I was waiting and waiting for the signal to say they’d seen the message. They eventually responded an hour later.

“I couldn’t think straight. I didn’t know where my world was, I was so relieved I wanted to fly out there to be with them. But thank God they are Ok.

“My mum is a very friendly outgoing person, as is my dad, and they would do anything for anybody.

“I admire them so much.”

Tour operators Thomson and Thomas Cook have repatriated thousands of British holidaymakers from Tunisia although four flights have returned empty, meaning at least 1,000 people decided to stay on until the end of their trip.

The attack took place at the hotel Imperial Marhaba in Port El Kantaoui, near Sousse, on the west coast of Tunisia,

Seigeddine Rezgui, a 23-year-old Tunisian student, approached the hotel complex by the beach before opening fire on holidaymakers with an AK-47 assault rifle and entered the building, eventually being shot dead by police in the road in front of the hotel Riu Bellevue.

Some 38 people have been confirmed killed, with up to 30 British tourists feared dead.

The attack is now said to be attributed to Islamic State fundamentalists – Tunisian police have arrested a group of suspects and deployed 1,000 troops to defend the country’s beach resorts.