Oban couple tell of terror after being caught up in Paris tragedy
NEWS OF FORT WILLIAM RESIDENT SERIOUSLY INJURED IN FRENCH SHOOTINGS APPEARS TO BE BOGUS
AN OBAN couple who were within metres of a Paris restaurant as guns open fired have praised the kindness of strangers in the city.
Chillingly, Graham Campbell and Simone Hossoba, who were in the French capital to celebrate his birthday, may have been dining at the very restaurant where the atrocities happened on Friday November 13 if timings of the Metro had been different.
As the City of Light was plunged into darkness, the couple were forced to wander aimlessly around the streets of Paris as they were turned away by cafés, restaurants and taxis leaving them with no idea how to get back to their apartment.
Alarmingly, the couple were staying a mere 150 metres from the Bataclan building where the shootings at the rock concert took place.
They were only alerted to the terrorism lockdown by a family member, who phoned from Oban. Graham said: ‘My fiancé Simone booked the surprise trip to Paris for my birthday. I had never been before, but her sister lives there. We had been in Paris since Sunday November 8 and my birthday was on Thursday the 12th.
‘On Friday, Simone, her sister Romana and myself had spent the whole day at Disneyland Paris. When we got off the train in Paris we enjoyed a meal in a café near Notre Dame Cathedral before heading home for the night.
‘Just as we were leaving to get onto the subway we heard police cars speeding by and I said, ‘there must be something big happening’.
‘When we got off the subway [to change to another line] we said cheerio to Romana who was staying on the metro, but when we tried to change line we were told that the subway at Republique and our stop at Goncourt were closed. We weren’t given the reason why because our French was not very good. We were told to get a number 75 bus.
‘I then got a phone call from my sister to ask if we were safe and she explained what was going on. We realised the batteries on our phones were very low. We had no 3G to check maps. We were lost in a city in lockdown and it all became very frightening.
‘ We went outside to wait for a bus and as we were waiting there was a round of gun shots – a close-by restaurant was under siege. At that point we wanted to get as far from the scene as quickly as possible.’
The couple were turned away from cafés and restaurants, with taxi drivers refusing to take them to their apartment.
Graham describes walking ‘aimlessly and blind’ through the streets of Paris. People tried to help with directions and maps. But as the couple’s French is limited it was proving very difficult.
‘Simone was very scared and we didn’t want to get back into an area with a big crowd, such as the subway or onto a bus. For me, the adrenaline kicked in. I had to stay calm because if I panicked we weren’t going to get anywhere.’
Exhausted, the couple came across a bar and decided they would try one last time to get help. The owner of Café Hugo on Place des Vosages, near the Bastille, proved to be the good Samaritan the couple needed.
Graham said: ‘She just took one look at us and said, ‘Come in and stay here and we will get you back to your apartment tonight’.
‘I saw a bottle of Clan Campbell whisky on the gantry and for some reason I knew then it was all going to be okay.
‘She said a friend of hers was coming to take her staff home and he would take us home afterwards. She even paid for him to take us. She offered us food and wine, although I didn’t feel like drinking alcohol. She even let us charge our phones allowing us to make contact with our families. We eventually got back to our hotel after 2am. The following morning the woman’s friend came to take us to the airport. They were so kind.
‘I’ve never experienced the kindness of strangers when I have been in dire need before and I cannot believe how generous they were in Café Hugo.
‘ We now have many ‘ what ifs’ – what if we had been 30 minutes earlier, we could have gone into that restaurant, or what if we had gotten back to the apartment, we might have wandered along the road [ past the Bataclan].
‘ We saw the best of Paris for its architecture, we heard the worst of Paris, and we met the most welcoming people.
‘Paris is never going to be the same again. This was an attack on young socialising teens and 20-year- olds.’
REPORTS of a young Fort William father thought to be in hospital in an induced coma following the terror attacks in Paris may have been a hoax.
A number of media outlets said the father- of- one, named as Hamish ‘Callum’ MacDonald had been found unconscious outside the Bataclan Music Hall with a head injury, and since the attacks on Friday, a woman, claiming to be his cousin, Leah, had been using Twitter to give updates on his condition.
On Tuesday, Ian Blackford, the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, spoke to BBC Radio Scotland’s Highlands and Islands news saying he had received the sad news that ‘a young man from Fort William, Hamish MacDonald, known as Callum MacDonald, is sadly in an induced coma in Paris having been caught up in the events in the Bataclan’.
But it now appears the whole story may have been a rouse as The Oban Times contacted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in a bid to clarify the situation and was told they had not dealt with anyone with that name.
A spokeswoman said: ‘ One British national is confirmed to have died and two others were injured and treated in hospital.
‘If there are other British nationals who have been affected but have not sought our assistance, they can contact FCO consular staff on 0207 008 1500.
‘ We have provided consular support to everyone we are aware of and will have an enhanced package of support to those who were directly caught up in the attacks.’
Later on Tuesday, Mr Blackford told The Oban Times he had been informed the whole thing was likely to be a hoax following investigations by multiple public sector organisations.
He added: ‘I was concerned when I heard there may have been a person from Fort William involved, as I would be about anyone involved in this situation.
‘ If it is the case that this was a hoax it’s extremely disappointing that anyone should behave in such a manner because a lot of time and effort will have been wasted in attempts to track down this unidentified person.’
The Twitter account allegedly run by the man’s cousin was closed on Tuesday afternoon. Prior to this, Leah had been using social media to track down Callum, describing him as being 24 years old, from Fort William, with ginger hair and a tattoo of an eagle. The woman, whose Twitter account said she lived in Inverness, thanked people for their support before stating she would be deactivating the account.
A police spokesman confirmed enquiries into the Twitter account are ongoing.
During The Oban Times’ attempts to track down Callum’s family, no one in Lochaber could shed any light on his identity. Everyone asked was at a loss as to who the young man might be.
Neil Clark, chairman of Fort William Community Council, said: ‘I have no idea who he is. I’ve been asking around but nobody seems to know anything about him.’
Oban’s McCaig Tower lit up in solidarity with the people of Paris after terrorist attacks saw 129 people killed and more than 400 injured across five locations in the city. The lights in the
Tricoleur of red, blue and white lit up the town on Saturday evening thanks to the keeper of the lights, Argyll and Bute Council officer Louis Barrow.
Graham Campbell and his fiancé Simone Hossoba, centre, with her
sister Romana in Paris before the attacks took place.