Halifax couple ran for their lives from Tunisia terror beach

Bernadette and Richard Paciukanis

Bernadette and Richard Paciukanis

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A Halifax couple have spoken of their terror when a gunman opened fire on holidaymakers in Tunisia.

Grandparents Bernadette and Richard Paciukanis, who live in Boothtown, were sunbathing just yards away when the terrorist struck on the beach at Sousse.

Mrs Paciukanis, 57, a sales advisor at the Halifax Argos store, and her husband were staying at the Imperial Marhaba hotel in the resort for her birthday treat.

She had just had a massage when the gunman began firing at holidaymakers.

Recalling her fear as she and others fled the scene of the horror, she said: “The massage person had just finished and I heard what sounded like firecrackers.

“He turned around and that’s what made me look, I saw a black figure and I just heard my husband shout ‘run’.

“I fell on the beach and I thought ‘I’m dead’, people were brushing past me.”

Mr Paciukanis added: “I turned to my left and I saw the man, he was moving from left to right with the rifle in his hand.

“I just turned around and said ‘run, run, just get out of here, run’.”

In the midst of the massacre, the pair separated, but Mrs Paciukanis managed to make it to the foyer of the hotel.

“I can’t remember running and as I was going for the pool, I could hear him shooting behind me,” the grandmother-of-three added.

“From the pool to the foyer, there was lots of steps, I don’t know how I managed to get up them, I was feeling tired, but I thought ‘just keep going, just keep running’.

“I felt like my heart was going to come out of my chest, I didn’t know where I was going.”

Mrs Paciukanis managed to hide in a cloakroom with hotel staff members,

“I sat there and just waited and waited, I could hear the shooting and I could hear banging,” she said,

And while the terror unfolded outside, Mrs Paciukanis had no idea where her husband was - or if he was safe.

He had also fallen on the beach, causing the couple to lose each other as crowds escaped the armed attacker.

Mr Paciukanis, 59, an engineer at Halifax Rack and Screw Cutting Company, Brighouse, managed to find refuge in a nearby spa.

“I was just hoping my wife had managed to find safety, but I didn’t have my phone so I had no way of contacting her,” he said.

“I looked out on to the beach area, I could see the gunman walking past with his rifle as if nothing had gone wrong.

“I had to get out of the spa area and I passed the pool site and it was there where I saw all the dead bodies, covered in towels and blood splattered all over the floor.

“It was terrifying, it changes your outlook on life. To not know whether you’re going to get a bullet in you, or if you will get away.”

The couple managed to return to the UK in the early hours of Saturday morning.

A total of 38 people, many British, were killed when the man, who is suspected to have links to the Islamic State group opened fire on the beach.

Tunisian officials have said they are certain 23-year-old Seifeddine Rezgui had help in carrying out the attack.