West Norfolk survivors of the Tunisian terror attack have spoken of the horror and carnage after a gunman opened fire on tourists on the beach.
Friends and neighbours Angela Evans and Belda Butauskiere, from Lynn, told how they were forced to play dead in the sand as the killer reloaded his gun just inches from their heads.
And East Winch couple Len and Pam Plain described how they ran for their lives when they heard the gunfire erupting.
All of them are now safely back at home after catching emergency flights back to Britain at the weekend.
Speaking from the resort of Sousse before flying home at the weekend, great-grandmother Mrs Evans told the Sunday Express: “We tried to run but had fallen over in a panic.
“I whispered to Belda to play dead and we both just lay flat, face down in the sand, as though we were corpses.
“I could sense the gunman was close by. His feet were just inches from my head. Then I heard him change the magazine in his gun.
“At this point I began to say a prayer in my head. I thought we were next and he was going to finish us off.
“But at that moment we heard some commotion elsewhere and he seemed to be distracted by that and wandered off.”
She said the pair, who were staying at the Imperial Mahaba Hotel, played dead for another five minutes, before going to the Bellevue hotel next door after they had realised the gunman had entered their hotel’s lobby.
A member of staff at the Bellevue then hid them in his office until the terror was over.
Mrs Butauskiere added: “When we first saw the gunman we mistook him for a police officer.
“Then he started to kill people at random and after that it just became a blur. If we had not played dead we would not be here today.”
East Winch couple Len and Pam Plain arrived at the Bellevue Hotel for their two-week holiday five days before the terror attack unfolded.
Mrs Plain, 48, a support worker at the Fermoy Unit at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, said they were laying on loungers between the beach and the hotel pool when they heard a bang.
They initially thought it a woggle hitting the water in a pool aerobics class, but then heard rapid gunfire and watched as people started running towards them from the beach.
“You could hear the machine gun, there was no mistaking it,” she said.
“Then Len shouted ‘run, run like hell’ and we ran inside the hotel.
“Everyone was panicking. We didn’t really know what was going on.
“People were hugging and crying and one woman was shouting that her husband had been shot. She was hysterical. It was just horrible.”
“We’re so lucky we weren’t on the beach,” she added.
Mr Plain, 57, a self-employed plumber, told how staff from the Bellevue Hotel formed a human shield to try and protect tourists from the gunman.
“As we were running away from the beach, they were running towards it to try and protect us. The staff were amazing,” he said.
The couple, who have four children, aged 29, 26, and two 21-year-old twins, were then told to go to their rooms, and sometime later Mrs Plain was accompanied back to her sunbed lounger to collect her bag that she’d left behind.
She said: “My phone was in my bag and I was worried that if the kids switched on the TV and saw what happened and then couldn’t get hold of me, that they’d panic.
“I phoned them and luckily they hadn’t heard anything, so I explained what happened and said we were OK.”
The couple decided they couldn’t stay in the resort any longer and caught an emergency flight home to Gatwick in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Mrs Plain, who returned to Britain at the weekend, said she had gone to Tunisia around six times before with Len, as well as with friends, but said the massacre has put them off ever returning.
“It’s so lovely there, and the Tunisian people are so friendly. We have always stayed at the Bellevue too as we’ve made friends there; it was almost like a second home,” she said.
“But I don’t think I could ever go back now.”
A total of 38 people were killed in the atrocity. Eighteen are known to be British, although it is feared that figure will rise to 30.
It is the worst terrorist attack on British citizens since the July 7 bombings in London in 2005, in which 52 people were killed.
Today, MPs observed a minute’s silence in the House of Commons and North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said the attacks were “unreal.”
A further minute’s silence in memory of the victims will be observed across the country at noon this Friday.