An Irishman, whose foot was destroyed by a bullet during the horrific 2015 Bataclan massacre has told how the images of people that were dead will always be in his mind
he former construction site worker who was appearing as a witness in France’s biggest ever criminal trial which is underway in Paris, also revealed how he and his wife whispered their last goodbyes to each other as they lay on the floor.
The man, who did not want to be named in the media, said that at one point, the gunfire became single shots.
“It seemed as if they were just walking around executing people individually,” he said.
As the couple lay on the ground his wife, an Irish woman who also asked not to be named by the media, told the court she saw a man dying “and I reached out my hand so he didn’t die alone”.
Her husband whose wounded foot had to be rebuilt in several surgeries, said: “Psychologically, it’s still there, just speaking about it now I can see the images in my mind of people that were dead and I can’t get them out of my head, they will always be there.”
Witnesses have been appearing at the trial into the attacks claimed by Islamic State on 13 November 2015, which killed 130 people and injured more than 400 in synchronised suicide bombings and mass shootings across the French capital.
The attacks began about 9pm on a Friday night when a suicide bomber blew himself up after failing to get into the Stade de France France-Germany football match.
There were then a series of drive-by shootings and suicide bombings at cafes and restaurants across the city.
The attacks were claimed by the jihadist Islamic State group the following day.
The attack at the Bataclan music venue during a rock gig by Eagles of Death Metal left 90 people dead while dozens suffered devastating injuries during the two-hour massacre.
People aged from their 30s to their 50s told how they had travelled by plane or Eurostar in 2015 to France for what was to be a “joyful” gig by the Eagles of Death Metal.
They made the journey because they were fans or were celebrating birthdays or enjoying romantic visits.
Some of the witnesses told how they would never forget the people they saw die in front of them.
And although they continued to bear physical and psychological scars six years later, they vowed that terrorism and hatred “will never win”.
One NHS worker, Mark Blackwell, described how he had been bought concert tickets for the Bataclan gig for his 50th birthday.
He was standing near the stage with a group of friends when he heard the first shots and the lights went on.
“I thought that this would go extra bad for me if I was taken hostage, not being French, being a foreigner in the city,” he said. “I determined I had to get out, but then a body fell on my feet. This body was over both of my feet and my ankles.
“At first I started to panic then a voice in my head told me, ‘just stay calm’ … I managed to move my feet out one foot at a time, and I could see ahead of me everyone else was already facing down on the floor, I don’t know how many were alive still, how many weren’t.”
He described the horrible smell, a “mix of gunpowder and blood” as he tried to crawl away very slowly to try to escape.
“The smell was horrible, that horrible mix of gunpowder and blood – so strong, you can almost taste it,” he said.
“It invaded the whole place. I started crawling because I thought if I run for it I won’t make it.”
He was then hit by two bullets, one of which took “a piece of flesh out of my arm”.
Looking up he saw one of the young gunmen across the room and could see his eyes, “there was nothing in them, no humanity”.
“I came to rest in front of a face a few centimetres away from mine, a girl’s face,” he added. “I was looking right into her eyes, and they were full of fear and pain. Everything in those eyes just faded, just stopped, went blank. I think she died.”
A special criminal court in Paris has been tasked with judging the 20 accused, including the only surviving attacker, Salah Abdeslam, and 13 other defendants who are being held in a purpose-built facility.
Six others are being tried in absentia. Twelve of the 20 people on trial, including Abdeslam, face life sentences if convicted.
While September was dedicated to laying out the police and forensic evidence, October will be given over to victims’ testimony.
From November to December, officials including former French President François Hollande will testify, as will relatives of the attackers.
From January to March 2022, the defendants will be questioned following the chronology of the events, from the preparations to the attacks and their aftermath. Abdeslam will be questioned multiple times.
Experts will present psychological assessments in early April. Closing arguments follow through May.