Former girlfriend tells of fight to save 'love of her life' in Bataclan massacre

Former girlfriend tells of fight to save 'love of her life' in Bataclan massacre
Sheelagh (left) and Zoe Alexander, mother and sister of Nick Alexander, who died at the Bataclan theatre massacre, outside Chelmsford Coroner's Court in Essex, following an inquest into his death. Pic: PA

The former girlfriend of a British man who was killed in the Bataclan theatre massacre has described how she tried to save the "love of her life" before he died in her arms.

Nick Alexander, 35, from Colchester, was in the Paris music venue when gunmen stormed the building midway through a rock concert on November 13 last year, killing 89 people.

He had been selling merchandise for the US rock band Eagles Of Death Metal, who were on stage at the time and survived the massacre.

Helen Wilson, an ex-girlfriend who was with Mr Alexander that evening, said she tried to shield him from the bullets as Islamic State gunmen opened fire shortly after 10pm.

But he died as she tried to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation after being shot two or three times in the stomach and chest.

Speaking after an inquest at Essex Coroner's Court in Chelmsford found he was unlawfully killed, his sister Zoe Alexander said he "lived his life to the full".

With her mother Sheelagh at her side, she said: "On November 13 last year our precious Nick, along with 88 others, lost his life in an indiscriminate act of terror at the Bataclan theatre.

"Nick was a much-loved son, brother, uncle and friend, a strong, gentle, generous and funny man who lived his life to the full.

"We were blessed to have him in our lives and we miss him beyond measure."

Ms Wilson, an American who lives in France and runs a catering company in the music business, said she had gone to meet Mr Alexander the night before after he told her he was in Paris.

After staying at his hotel she met him later on November 13 at the Bataclan during the concert.

Ms Wilson, who did not attend the inquest, said in evidence read to the court that they heard gunshots as they stood together at his stall, inside the theatre, near the entrance.

She said: "I noticed a small guy with a pistol and another taller one, who I would describe as the leader, who had a machine gun, who opened fire with the machine gun.

"The first small guy with the pistol had already shot at the crowd."

The pair dropped to the floor and curled up and tried to "play dead" as screaming and gunshots echoed around them, before one of the gunmen approached them and opened fire.

Ms Wilson said: "I tried to protect Nick by covering his body with my legs and wrapping my arms ... I asked Nick if he had been shot, I could feel a burning sensation around my legs and could see blood.

"I thought I was going to die. Nick said that he had been shot, he told me that he had been shot in the stomach."

Mr Alexander was struggling to breathe, could not move and was in pain, so she told him to breathe gently and that she would give him mouth-to-mouth.

She said: "We were holding hands the whole time. He told me it was hard to breathe so I told him to squeeze my hand and was telling him to stay with me ... I was telling him not to leave me, and that I love him."

Ms Wilson repeatedly tried to revive him before a bomb went off inside the theatre.

She said: "I protected myself and asked Nick if he was okay. He said, 'I'm going to die'. I told him that he wasn't, he said he couldn't breathe. I slid round closer to him and gave him mouth-to-mouth, but could tell that he had already died."

She eventually got up and tried to leave the theatre, before being carried to safety by police.

The scene outside the Bataclan on the night of the attack.
The scene outside the Bataclan on the night of the attack.

Ms Wilson told the inquest they had first started seeing each other in Liverpool around 2006, when she was married to someone else.

They were in a relationship for two years before breaking it off, but remained friends.

She told the inquest: "I consider (him) as the love of my life."

Returning her conclusions, coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray said: "May I again offer my condolences to Nick's family for their loss. He clearly was a much-loved family member and popular young man.

"You have not only suffered the tragic loss of Nick but you have also had the ordeal of this inquest hearing. You have displayed the utmost dignity."

Neither Mr Alexander's father, Barry, nor his girlfriend Polina Buckley attended the inquest.

Mr Alexander, who was living in London at the time, was one of 130 people killed when Islamic terrorists carried out six co-ordinated attacks on the French capital, targeting bars, restaurants and the national stadium the Stade de France.

The Bataclan theatre was attacked by three men armed with automatic weapons, pistols and grenades. Two died after detonating suicide vests and the third was shot by police.

The trio were Frenchmen Omar Ismail Mostefai, 29, Samy Amimour, 28, and Foued Mohamed-Aggad, 23.

Detective Chief Inspector Philip Howarth, from the Met Police's counter-terrorism command, told the inquest that in the days before the attack the British Foreign Office had warned travellers of a high threat from terrorism, saying that attacks could be indiscriminate following ongoing threats from Islamic State.

The November atrocities came after attacks in December 2014, the Charlie Hebdo magazine massacre in January 2015 and an attack on a Jewish supermarket, as well as another attack in August by a gunman on a train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris.

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