Horror at Rock Concert: Girlfriend Tells How Her Lover Died in Her Arms

Published: 15th November 2015 09:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th November 2015 09:17 AM   |  A+A-

It was 9.50pm and Eagles of Death Metal were on their sixth song when the shooting started. Within a few minutes, Helen Wilson was holding her British partner, Nick Alexander, in her arms as he struggled for his life.

"We heard a couple of noises outside and people started running into the club," said Miss Wilson, 49, originally from New Orleans. "Then the guys came in with machine guns and shotguns and just started shooting people. It was mayhem.

"When anyone started running they would shoot them down. So we got down on the floor. I was afraid whenever I heard a step behind me. They machine-gunned everybody.

"Nick was in front of me when we were lying on the ground. Somebody moved, and they just turned round and started shooting us. He was shot in front of me. His back was to me and I couldn't see what happened and I tried to keep him talking and then I tried to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and they were just sort of in the shadows and they would shoot if anyone said anything. Then he couldn't breathe any more and I held him in my arms and told him I loved him. He was the love of my life."

For a venue seating 1,500 people, the Bataclan is quite an intimate place. Its intimacy meant few could avoid what was about to happen.

"Everyone was dancing and smiling, and when the men came through the front entrance we naively believed it was all part of the show," said Isobel Bowdery, a British student who was at the concert with her French boyfriend. On her Facebook page, Ms Bowdery said she pretended to be dead for more than an hour. "I was holding my breath, trying to not move, not cry - not giving those men the fear they longed to see".

John Leader, originally from Australia, has been living in Paris for the past 15 years. He attended the concert with his 12-year-old son.

"The shooter was standing at the back of the hall and targeting people at the front. He was taking aim. He was not spraying. It was clinical. He was aiming: aim, fire, aim, fire, aim, fire," he said. "Nobody clicked what it was. We were at a rock concert and you don't expect anything like what happened. I thought maybe it was firecrackers."

Cristine Tudhope and Mariesha Jack, from Scotland, were on a joint birthday trip to Paris, excited to be at a gig together for the first time in years.

Suddenly there was a smattering of what they too thought were firecrackers going off behind them. Then they saw the band jump back on stage, and realised it was gunfire.

"We turned around and saw the bullets being fired," Ms Tudhope told The Sunday Telegraph. "Mariesha and I started running for the backstage area exit but didn't know where we were going and got lost in the building and ended up in the basement, where we found a small cellar where we hid together with two Italian guys who had been behind us. We crouched down, trying to be as still and quiet as possible." Above them, all hell had broken loose and the group could hear everything that was going on. "There was automatic gunfire, explosions, horrific screams," said Ms Tudhope, speaking from her hotel room in Paris, minutes away from the venue.

The Italian men, in their early twenties, had found the motion-activated light switch and turned the light off. Not wanting to speak, Ms Tudhope typed in a message on her mobile phone, asking one of them if they had managed to lock the door to the cellar. "He whispered back that he had. I didn't even know his or his friend's name as we sat there, holding hands, for the next three hours, wondering if we would get out alive." There were four gunmen, all dressed in black and making no attempt to cover their faces. Some witnesses said they shouted "Allahu Akbar," God is great, as they fired. Yasmine, another survivor, heard one of them scream: "What you are doing in Syria, you are going to pay for it now." But Julien Pierce, a radio reporter in the audience, said they said nothing and just started firing. "They kept shooting into the crowd. It lasted for ages. They had time to reload their rifles, several times. They were very much in control," he said.

Miss Wilson, who was shot in both thighs, said the killers had not spared handicapped people attending the concert, who were in a special area.

"They went into the back room where there were people in wheelchairs and they just started shooting them and every time anybody tried to get out a guy would come out and start shooting again," she said. "At one point we could get out but I couldn't get him [Nick] up so I just stayed with him." "The gunmen would stop, they were strolling around. I had my head down. It seemed like a very long time."

 At the side of the theatre, in the Passage St-Pierre Amelot, screaming concertgoers started to pour out of the emergency exits, treading over two or three bodies which blocked one doorway. Whether they had been shot, or trampled in the panic, is not yet clear.

One escapee was taking his time, then you saw why. Shot in the leg, he was helped by another person to hop down the street. Two others were dragging another man behind them, one arm each, his entire body a sea of blood. He left a great red smear on the road. A third man, also limp was dragged backwards too.

More shots rang out and more people spilled out of the exits. The bodies around the doorway were greater in number now. One of the people on the ground was moving, wriggling, but couldn't get up. He was soaked in blood. Above him, clinging to the side of the building at first and second-floor level, were two people who had climbed out of the windows to avoid the roaming gunmen. "I'm pregnant! I'm pregnant," shouted one woman hanging from the windowsill.

The man who took the footage, Daniel Psenny, said the people clinging to the window-ledges made him think of 9/11. When he went down to help the dying people in the street, he was shot himself. One of the gunmen was at a window overlooking the scene, firing to cut people down as they fled, he said. "I felt like a firecracker exploding in my left arm, and I saw that it was p---ing blood. I think the shooter was at the Bataclan window," he said. "We got someone into the lobby of our building who was shot in the leg, an American. He vomited, he was cold, we feared he would die. I called a doctor friend who told me how to make me a tourniquet with my shirt. And then we were stuck until the police assaulted the building and picked him up."

Hannah Corbett and Jack Konda, both 21-year-old British students, were among those who fled. "We heard what sounded like fireworks," said Miss Corbett, from Lenton, Nottinghamshire. "Everyone thought it was part of the show but then I saw the lead singer's face drop before he ran off stage, and the lights came on. We all just dropped to the floor. We were to the left of the stage in the main standing area, and quite near the fire exit.

"When the music stopped, there was this haunting silence in between gunfire and I could see blood on the floor. Some managed to crawl out but there was just a pile of people by the fire exit. We didn't know what we were crawling over. Then when we got out, there were just people running for their lives." But for as many as several hundred of the audience, the ordeal of the night was not nearly over. For two hours, the terrorists held them captive in the main auditorium. Elsewhere in the building, barricaded into hideouts, small, terrified groups waited to be rescued, or found and killed.

In their basement, Cristine Tudhope's group had no mobile reception. But they could hear people speaking loudly in French on walkie talkies above them. "The Italian guys whispered to us that it was the terrorists talking to the police, saying they had hostages."

Not long after midnight, having sheltered in the cellar for around three hours, the French riot police finally stormed the building. The assault was brief. There was little time to lose. At least three of the four attackers blew themselves up as the security forces approached.

"I heard someone shout in English 'Are you really the police' and they shouted back that they were," said Miss Tudhope. "Eventually they forced open the door to the cellar, where we were now standing up with our hands in the air." The police led the group out, one by one, and searched them. "They tried to reassure us that we were safe, and told us not to look down on the ground as there was so much blood everywhere."

"It was dirty inside, a butchery," said one officer who took part in the raid. "I went home for a shower afterwards." Dazed in their metallic blankets, the walking wounded were taken away on buses. An impromptu casualty clearing station - and mortuary - was set up in the cafe next door.

The death toll of the night at the Bataclan, so far, is 87. It includes Nick Alexander. In a statement last night, his family said: "It is with huge sorrow that we can confirm that our beloved Nick lost his life at the Bataclan last night. Nick was not just our brother, son and uncle, he was everyone's best friend - generous, funny and fiercely loyal."

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