FAMILY and friends of two Yorkshire victims of the Tunisian beach massacre have told of their grief and shock at the deaths as Scotland Yard mounted its biggest counter-terrorism operation since the 7/7 bombings.
There were at least 15 Britons among the 39 people killed in Seifeddine Rezgui’s attack on holiday makers in the resort of Sousse two days ago.
And reports tonight suggest up to 30 of those killed could be British.
Theresa May suggested British officials were having difficulty identifying victims because so many holidaymakers were not carrying anything on them when they were killed.
It has emerged that 72-year-old grandfather Bruce Wilkinson, from Goole, and Claire Windass, 54, a mother, from Hull, were among those who died.
Rezgui targeted western tourists with a Kalashnikov rifle on the beach outside the RIU Imperial Marhaba and Bellevue hotels on Friday. His killing spree only ended when he was shot dead by police. A bomb was found on his body.
Family members of the victims from Yorkshire have paid tribute to them. In a statement, issued through Goole’s MP Andrew Percy, Mr Wilkinson’s family said: “We are devastated at the loss of Bruce, who was a devoted husband, father and grandfather.
“Bruce was a loving family man, and in his working life worked to support the care of others.
“He was a kind and compassionate man, with a dry sense of humour. He was fun-loving, and will be deeply missed by friends and family alike. The family would like to thank everyone who has supported them since the tragic of events of last Friday.”
The family issued a photograph of Mr Wilkinson with his wife Rita on a holiday at a different Tunisian resort from 2013.
Mrs Windass’s family and friends were also coming to terms with their loss.
She was on the beach with her husband when the attack happened. Her husband Jim, 66, has returned home from Tunisia. Speaking from their home in Hull his son Steven, 29 said: “My Dad got back in the early hours of this morning. He just wants to sleep. “He is too upset to talk to anyone right now.” A friend of Mrs Windass’s daughter, Eve Marshall, said: “Claire was the loveliest lady, one of the nicest ladies you would ever meet. I heard the news on Friday – so tragic. I just can’t believe she’s gone. I was absolutely devastated when I heard.”
Survivors of the attack have also relived the horror of their ordeal. Among them was Tom Richards, a 22-year-old Leeds University graduate who suffered a wrist injury as Rezgui sprayed bullets inside the Imperial Marhaba hotel.
He was with his mother, Sam, by the hotel pool when they heard gunfire coming from the beach and ran inside.
But Rezgui followed them up the stairs, killing two tourists on the way, before firing several shots. “He looked right at me – I thought I was dead,” Mr Richards said. “I don’t know why he stopped. He could have killed everybody.”
Scotland Yard said more than 600 officers were involved in what was its largest counter-terrorism operation since the 7/7 bombings.
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said 16 detectives and forensic experts were already in Tunisia with almost 400 meeting survivors at UK airports to identify possible witnesses.
The Queen has sent her condolences to the families of those killed, saying the brutal attack had left her and the Duke of Edinburgh “shocked”. She also sent her deepest sympathy to those injured.
As tributes were paid to the victims by family and friends, Buckingham Palace released a statement from the Queen saying: “Prince Philip and I were shocked to learn of the attack on British tourists in Tunisia on Friday.
“We send our sincere condolences to the families of those who were killed and our deepest sympathy to the people who are still fighting for their lives in hospital, and those who have been seriously injured.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those of all countries who have been affected by this terrible event.”
There has been an agonising wait for many waiting to hear news of their relatives but there has also been relief for those able to find out that their loved ones out in Tunisia are safe.
Carol Mulhall, from Doncaster, is among those having finally heard that her parents Margaret and Dougie Lamb are alright.
She had shared their photos with the BBC after failing to get hold of them following the atrocity .
Someone at the British Embassy in Tunisia recognised the couple and made contact with Ms Mulhall via Facebook.
She said: “I have never felt so thankful for anything in my life.”