British tourist in gun attack flown home

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The Independent Online
THE BRITISH woman who is critically ill after being shot in the heart at close range while on holiday in the Caribbean was flown home yesterday.

Paula Bridges, 41, returned from Barbados on an air ambulance to Norwich airport, Norfolk, before being transferred to the James Paget hospital near Great Yarmouth.

Mrs Bridges, a care assistant of Southwold, Suffolk, was unconscious in a "stable but critical" condition in intensive care. Consultants spent the day monitoring her condition.

Rosemary Smalley, the hospital's clinical operations manager, said it had been a "long and gruelling" 20-hour journey from the Caribbean island.

Mrs Bridges was in a restaurant bar with her partner, John Martin, 53, on 1 October when two gunman rushed in demanding money and valuables. She was shot in the chest after refusing to hand over jewellery. The bullet was removed from her heart in a five-hour operation and she was placed on a life-support machine.

Mr Martin said that she clung to life only by sheer force of will. "The doctors (in Barbados) are saying that the only reason she is still here is that she is incredibly strong and she is fighting for life," he said.

"The surgeon who carried out the operation (in Barbados) is astounded that she was able to survive."

Airtours, the tour operator she was travelling with, chartered an air ambulance once it became clear she was stable enough to return to Britain.

Her sister, Christine, sons Dean, 20, and Christopher, 22, and Mr Martin's son, Stephen, who flew to Barbados to be with her, returned to Gatwick yesterday. They were understood to be with Mrs Bridges and Mr Martin at the hospital.

Five men were being questioned, but the Barbados Attorney General, David Simmons, insisted that the shooting was an isolated incident and that the island was safe.

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