Oban couple tell of terror af­ter be­ing caught up in Paris tragedy


The Oban Times - - Front Page - LOUISE GLEN lglen@oban­times.co.uk

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.’

Pho­to­graph: WDR Photographics

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.

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