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Revisiting Tunisia: Terror attack survivor returns to scene of massacre

Tony Callaghan is back next to the sun lounger in the Tunisian Hotel where he first heard the gunfire.

"We're on holiday in Tunisia on a beautiful day, and then I'm hearing gunfire - and just for that split second it had to sink in," he said.

The 63-year-old from Norfolk has returned to the place where 38 people - 30 of them Britons - were killed in June's terror attack. Dozens more were left injured, including Tony and his wife Christine, who both suffered gunshot wounds.

Tony Callaghan returned to the scene of the terror attack in Tunisia Credit: ITV News

He came back to say thank you to those who saved so many at the hospital and hotel - but also to confront the trauma.

Upon realising they were under fire, Tony got Christine to run, before shouting at others by the pool to do the same.

"I was shouting at everyone to run to the hotel to get some cover. 'We're being fired at' I said. 'That's a gunman'," he remembered.

"I heard two shots going over my head and thought: 'It's time for me to go now'."

Tony and his wife Christine were both injured in the attack Credit: ITV News

Retracing his steps along the route he fled from the gunman, he recalls the sounds of that day.

"You could hear people being injured, the screams - it was just that gunfire which was the loudest thing," he said.

Tony, Christine and others ran behind the hotel's reception and up a flight of stairs to try to escape the gunman. But they ended up in a dead-end corridor with the gunman closing in.

Back here again for the first time since the attack, Tony recalls the gunman was about 10 feet away from them in the corridor.

"The gunman was at one end of the corridor he was firing at us and all we could do was run for our lives," he tells me, as we walk over floor tiles still cracked from the gunman's exploded grenade. He stops at the spot where he was shot.

"I remember getting hit here in my left calf. My wife was right behind me and we were running down here."

A few metres along there's a turning to the left leading to an office. This is where Christine was shot as she tried to round the corner, shattering her thigh bone.

She has had four operations since that day and is still on the long road to recovery.

Tony and six others barricaded themselves in an office during the massacre. Credit: ITV News

The door to the office into which Tony and six others managed to barge their way still shows the scars of being broken into.

As they barricaded themselves in Tony realised Christine was still in the corridor as she cried out she'd been shot.

Fighting back emotion, he told of his agony at hearing her cry out for him while trapped behind the door.

I thought Chris was with me. I didn't realise she'd been hit and fallen where she'd been hit. It just blew her leg away.

I was trying to get Chris's attention who by this time was shouting she'd been shot.

She's crying out 'Tony please help me I've been shot... and this is the difficult bit for me... my wife was out there injured.

– Tony Callaghan

I ask him what strikes him most about being back here.

"That cold shiver that's going down my back now," he replies.

"I'm right back there in that day and I can just envisage it all now and the agonising shouts and screams from outside - that's been really hard for me."

Dr Karim Bouattour, the surgeon who operated on Christine and so many others that day, greets Tony with a hug Credit: ITV News

Tony, who served in RAF, says the trauma of that day was beyond words.

"I've heard gunfire before, I've fired weapons. But I've never been in a situation where I'm running for my life. The screams, the gunfire, the explosions, it was like being in a war zone," he adds, fighting back tears.

"And I feel so sorry for those that were lying out in that corridor dead...those poor people...they were in their swimwear. Why have they been killed?"

It took more than 30 minutes for the firing around the hotel to stop, so Tony could get out of the room to treat Christine and to help others.

He returned to Sahloul Hospital in Sousse to hand over £3,000 he and Christine have helped to raise for the hospital to say thank you.

The staff are overwhelmed to see him again and amazed he's come back to thank them.

They've put a banner up which reads 'Welcome Tony Callaghan'.

Dr Karim Bouattour, the surgeon who operated on Christine and so many others that day, hugs Tony. "Thank you so much for coming back," he says.

Tony replies: "Thank you for looking after us so well."

Tony Callaghan returned to Tunisia Credit: ITV News

There are flowers and gifts for Tony and Christine and the affection of the hospital staff is clear to see.

"On my journey of recovery, this was something that needed to be done. There was so much negativity that day - this, to me, was a step forward," said Tony.

The attack has all but destroyed Tunisia's tourist industry. The all-year round RIU Imperial Marhaba Hotel has now been forced to close, with most of its staff laid off.

On the hotel's beach we meet Jihed Hassan, a water sports instructor among those to have lost their job.

"I am very angry and sad too because the gunman wanted to destroy Tunisia," he tells me.

I ask him whether the gunman will succeed.

"No, he will not," he replies defiantly.

The so-called Islamic State militant group said it had been behind the atrocity.

Seifeddine Rezgui, a 23-year-old electrical engineering student, was shot dead at the scene after killing 38 people.

Zohra Driss, the hotel's owner, says destroying the country's tourism trade was the terrorist's aim Credit: ITV News

Zohra Driss, the hotel's owner, is in no doubt about the gunman's motive. In the empty restaurant she tells Tony and me about the impact it's had.

"He wanted to destroy all the economy in Tunisia. He wanted to make people poor and to attract them to do terrorism," she said.

Even worse, she added, she thinks the plan could easily work, as she said as many as 300,000 jobs could be lost as a result of June's attack.

Tony is incredulous.

It's absolutely unbelievable that something like this can bring a country to its knees.

There's always this thought that the terrorist can't win. They can't. We can't allow that.

Even I'm saying that that now after being wounded by a terrorist.

– Tony Callaghan

As the sun sets over the memorial plaque in the hotel's grounds, Tony and Zohra lay flowers.

Tony reads a poem in the card he's brought from him and Christine.

"Time may pass and fade away but memories of you will always stay. You will not be forgotten."