The Daily Telegraph
British boy who died as quake hit holiday villa
Tributes to villa owners and friends’ son killed when walls came crashing down
and Martin IT IS the ultimate dream of rural life in Italy: a lovingly-restored villa in a medieval hamlet, with an immaculate rose garden, lavender bushes, and a swimming pool shaded by cedar trees.
But the idyll turned to tragedy in the hamlet of Sommati – near the epicentre of Wednesday’s devastating earthquake – when the stone walls of the villa came crashing down, killing Britons William Henniker-Gotley, 55, and his wife Maria, 51, along with Marcos Burnett, 14, the son of visiting friends.
The owners’ two children, Jack, 14 and Francesca, 15, both escaped unharmed, along with their guests’ daughter, Adriana Burnett, 12, and another teenage girl.
Marcos’s parents, Simon and AnneLouise Burnett, were injured but survived and are being treated in a hospital in Rieti, a town about 50 miles from the quake epicentre.
“The husband has a broken leg and the wife has a broken nose with other injuries to her face,” a hospital official said.
Neighbours rushed to help the Brit- ish families when they heard screams for help, in English, coming from under the rubble after the quake hit at 3.36am.
Among the first on the scene was Bruno Formicola, 50, whose wife, son and his children were miraculously spared.
In tears as he returned to the villa on Friday, he recounted how he had rushed out into the night with only his mobile phone as a torch, to find that the house had been reduced to a mound of rubble.
“We heard cries for help in English from underneath. Jack and Francesca had managed to escape, but two other teenage girls were stuck by a thick wall that had not fallen down. We managed to get them out down a ladder. But the parents were underneath,” he said.
“Then there was a big aftershock and we had to wait. We started again, even though it was very dangerous as we were afraid the wall would collapse.
“Then we managed to pull out the parents of Marcos. They had not been buried very deep so we could reach them with our bare hands by listening to their voices to locate them.
“We wrenched off a wooden door from an outhouse and used it as a stretcher for the injured. When we pulled them out they were asking for their son, Marcos, but he was buried deep underneath. We didn’t have the tools to reach him.
“We had to wait until after 5am when the sun came up for rescue workers to arrive. They took away the injured and only recovered the dead much later,” he said.
Another neighbour, Nando Bonanni, 63, took the shellshocked surviving children into the garden of his family’s restaurant next door.
He said: “Jack told me he realised the house was falling down when he saw stars where the wall used to be.”
Mrs Henniker-Gotley worked as a fi- nance manager for Children and the Arts, a charity set up by the Prince of Wales to help underprivileged young people engage with music, dance and theatre.
In a statement, Clarence House said: “The Prince of Wales was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Maria Henniker-Gotley and her husband Will, in the earthquake in central Italy.
“Maria worked for Children and the Arts for many years, and was a valued member of the team whose contribution was greatly appreciated.
“The thoughts of the Prince and the Duchess are with their children and family, and the families of all those affected by this tragedy at such a difficult time.”
Jeremy Newton, the chief executive of the charity, said: “The whole Children and the Arts team is shocked and saddened by the news of her death, and that of her husband Will, who was also a staunch supporter of our work. We have lost a valued colleague, of course, but, above all, two very dear friends.”
Marcos was a pupil at Wetherby Independent School in west London, which the Duke of Cambridge also once attended.
Nick Baker, the headmaster, said the school was “devastated” by the loss. “We are bereft at the news that Marcos Burnett, a much-loved and admired boy at our school, has died in the earthquake in Italy. Our thoughts are with his family, and with all the victims of this terrible disaster.
“Marcos was always utterly charming, personable and engaging company.”
Jill Meyer, 69, a neighbour of the Henniker-Gotley family, said: “It is just a terrible, terrible loss. They were a lovely family and I will miss them very much. It will be very odd not to see them again, the most unbelievable thing.
“The children are incredibly bright; to lose both of your parents at once is such a tragedy.”
Stuart Barr, 44, a conductor, who lives opposite the family in south London, said: “They were an absolutely delightful family.”
In the wrecked village of Sommati, local man Daniela Di Giacomo said the house had originally been owned by Mrs Henniker-Gotley’s father, who is Italian but worked in Britain as a chef.
“They did splendid things in this villa. It’s typically English, with a lovely garden, a green lawn, really beautiful. They would come back every holiday with friends and family.”