‘I knew he was gone’: Inquest hears from wife of Notts man killed in Tunisian terror attack

John Stollery was on holiday with his family when he died.

An inquest into a Notts man killed in the Tunisian terror attack has been told by his widow of the moment she knew her husband had been shot dead by the killer.

John Stollery was one of 30 British tourists killed by Seifeddine Rezgui at Marhaba Beach in Sousse.

Cheryl Stollery gave evidence at the Royal Courts of Justice on February 2, in a hearing examining each victim of the terrorist attack in 2015, as well as the hotel, its security and travel advice given ahead of the attack.

She described how she and Mr Stollery, a former Paratrooper, had been at the pool when they heard a noise “similar to firecrackers” in the distance, while their son Matthew played video games elsewhere in the hotel.

“Then there was more of a volley,” she said.

“I looked at John, John looked at me. Given that he was in Para he realised that it was not firecrackers, that it was actual gunfire, and his words were, ‘Move, move’.”

The couple then ran into the hotel, but found there was nowhere to go and went down a path near the neighbouring nightclub.

John Stollery’s widow told an inquest of how they were at the pool when they heard gunshots.

“My immediate thoughts were, if we could get to the nightclub and in front of the nightclub there was two doors, and then I thought: everything else is locked, I’m not going to be able to get in there, but at least if we could get round the back of the nightclub there was some open ground,” Mrs Stollery said.

“But behind there, if we could hide behind there, we had solid concrete in front of us.”

A man dressed all in back then ran past, firing a gun, and Mrs Stollery turned to alert her husband to this.

“I turned round thinking John was still immediately behind me and said, ‘John, he’s there, he’s got a gun.’

“I knew John was or I expected him to be at the side of me or just behind me, and when I turned round John was on the floor.

“I screamed ‘No’ very loudly, and ‘John, John.’

“I went back up to him, stood over him, and I could see ‐ I could see at that point he had already died.

“Although his eyes were open, there was nothing there, and I could see the damage caused to his head, especially the left‐hand side of his temple, and other things.

“I knew he had gone.”

Mrs Stollery then hid in a phone booth in the hotel lobby, standing on a chair to cover the light with her hand and hold the door shut through a piece of broken glass as she heard men with Arabic voices pass her hiding spot.

John served as a paratrooper before working for Nottinghamshire County Council

She then saw a gardener she recognised with a small English girl and followed them to a laundry room, where she was covered in sheets to hide.

“Initially in the phone booth I had convinced myself that I was going to die, and then I decided that I wasn’t going to die because I’d got to find Matt,” she said.

She later found her son, after being ushered into a dining room that she ‘didn’t particularly think very safe’, due to the huge amounts of glass windows.

Mrs Stollery also said she saw television camera crews arriving before she saw police.

She and her son went to Tunis, two hours away, to identify Mr Stollery, before flying back to Manchester airport on June 28.

In her pen portrait, Mrs Stollery described how her husband had lost his father, and how he talked about him and missed not being able to share his achievements with him.

Her portrait also included tributes from children that John had worked with during his 16 years as a social worker for Nottinghamshire County Council.

“The most poignant tributes were from the children that he had worked with, and this was Paige, who was 14 at the time: ‘John had known me all my life. He made me realise my dreams could become a reality. He was well and truly the best social worker I have ever had and will ever meet.'”