Teenager tells of shielding grandfather during Tunisia gun massacre

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An inquest has heard how a teenager tried to shield his grandfather from a rampaging gunman during the Tunisia terror attack which also claimed the lives of his brother and uncle.

Owen Richards, who was 16 at the time, was helping Charles Patrick Evans, 78, try to escape as extremist Seifeddine Rezgui hunted for victims in a hotel.

Mr Evans, his son Adrian Evans, 49, and grandson Joel Richards, 19, were shot dead within 12 hours of arriving in the Sousse beach resort.

They were among 38 people killed by Rezgui at the five-star Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel on June 26 2015.

Inquests at the Royal Courts of Justice heard how the West Midlands family, who were enjoying the first day of a "boys' outing", fled from the outdoor pool area after hearing gunshots from the direction of the beach.

In a police interview in the UK, Mr Richards described how he had been sitting on a lilo in the pool when he heard what sounded like "firecrackers, but a lot deeper".

His brother Joel, an aspiring top-flight football referee, was sitting on the edge of the pool, and his uncle and grandfather were on sun loungers a short distance away.

As guests began to flee, both teenagers ran to the older men before making for the hotel.

Once inside they pressed the button for the lift but decided not to wait for it to arrive and ran to the indoor pool as Rezgui made his way around the corner.

Mr Richards told police: "On the way granddad kept falling over so he was not very fast.

"I saw the person running after us and he just came around the corner. Clearly we knew he had caught up with us.

"Ade (Adrian) dived down and laid down. I was still holding granddad, trying to help him run."

As the gunman approached, Mr Richards and Mr Evans, known to his family as Pat, fell to the floor.

"I was hugging granddad on the floor and then I could see out of my right hand corner my brother and seeing him dive to the floor," Mr Richards said.

"Then Joel screamed - I think he shouted 'no' three times, like pleading him to stop.

"He lifted the gun up and I closed my eyes, then I heard a bunch of shots."

Mr Richards described seeing Mr Evans was wounded before adding: "Granddad just said, 'he's got me'."

Rezgui moved closer and shot Mr Evans again at close range as Mr Richards was still clinging to his grandfather.

Realising his brother was lying nearby, Mr Richards said: "I hit his foot a few times, telling him to get up.

"You could see in his eyes that he was not alive - there was no life in his eyes."

His uncle was also lying motionless a little further away and Mr Richards ran to the neighbouring Soviva hotel before being taken in an ambulance for medical treatment for a wound on his left shoulder, believed to have been caused by a bullet.

The coroner, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith, said: "It seems to me Owen behaved with extraordinary courage while trying to protect his grandfather." 

Suzanne Richards, reading pen portraits of her eldest son, brother and father to the court, said the attack had "destroyed" her family.

The men had gone on a "jolly boys' outing" to Tunisia to celebrate her youngest son completing his GCSE exams.

They had visited the Imperial Marhaba hotel several times before, including when Joel finished his GCSEs and A-levels.

Mrs Richards said the last message she received from the trio was from her brother, who texted her on the morning of the attack to say they were "relaxing by the pool".

She fought back tears as she said: "They arrived in Tunisia late on Thursday evening - within 12 hours my dad, my eldest son and my brother were killed.

"Thankfully Owen survived.

"There are three empty chairs every Sunday for lunch. Three empty chairs at Walsall (football club).

"We feel like we have been cut in half and will never get over what we have lost."

Of her son, she said: "The world has lost a truly shining star."

Joel, who was studying sports science at the University of Worcester, was a "popular" teenager who had become a level four football referee at the age of 18.

Mrs Richards said: "I was so proud of my boys - we were like the Three Musketeers.

"Joel was robbed of his future and we were robbed of Joel.

"Part of me also died that day when my beautiful child was taken from me so cruelly and so unfairly."

Of her brother and the boys' godparent, Mr Evans, Mrs Richards said he had worked for Sandwell Council for more than 30 years, rising to the position of gas service manager.

He had recently found "new love" and had been planning to go to see the Tour de France with his eldest nephew the month after they returned from Tunisia.

And speaking about her father, Mrs Richards said he was also like a "father figure" to her sons and would help them with their homework, take them to football and support the entire family.

"I will miss him being there for me to solve all my problems - he was my rock, my support and he helped me in so many ways."

She added: "How can four people go on holiday and only one come back?

"That fatal horrific morning destroyed my family - we are broken."