'I heard a gun shot, and then felt the worst pain I have ever felt'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A British gap-year student on a diving expedition in Tanzania yesterday told of the excruciating pain she felt when she was shot by bandits.

A British gap-year student on a diving expedition in Tanzania yesterday told of the excruciating pain she felt when she was shot by bandits.

Grace Forster, 18, was hit by a 9mm bullet which entered on her left side and exited through the right, missing her spine by millimetres. The bullet then flew into the leg of Robert Scott, who was sitting next to her.

Miss Forster and Mr Scott, 20, from Bristol, were part of a group of 25 people camping on the remote Pemba island on Friday night, when their camp was attacked by seven raiders with guns and machetes.

Two men have been arrested in connection with the shooting and are being held in the mainland port of Tanga, British consular officials said.

Miss Forster, from Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire, said: "I heard a gun shot and felt an extreme amount of pain in my back ­ the worst pain I have ever felt. A split second later, I felt it again when it went out of me and immediately Rob jumped up when it hit him."

She said the moments that followed were complete chaos as the gunmen shouted at them all to lie on the floor. "They were not masked but they had a range of different hats on and they did not want us to see their faces," she said. "They kept shouting, 'If you want to keep your lives, sleep', so that we would get down on the floor."

Miss Forster, who was bleeding heavily, buried her sister's expensive computer diving watch in the sand as it would be "cool" to return it afterwards.

She said: "I knew my sister would not have cared in the slightest if it had been taken, but I was thinking, I will bury my watch in the sand and then go back and get it later.

"We had no control over anything. We were being told what to do and how to do it. We couldn't answer back or fight back. This was the only thing I had a little bit of control over. I thought it would be cool to go home and say, 'They got my money, they stole my bag, but here's your watch'." After being shot, Miss Forster, who recently sat A-levels in art and IT, said she concentrated on moving her hands and feet to make sure she was not paralysed.

She explained: "I was terrified but in that situation you cannot afford to be terrorised. Everyone was fantastic. They had their heads down and were just doing whatever they were told. I was trying to be aware of how I was feeling because I was bleeding and saying to myself, 'Please keep everyone safe, please keep me safe'. "Someone rushed over to me and shouted, 'We need medicine'. The [bandit] threw him to the floor and no one was allowed to assist me."

Miss Forster said she did not believe the gunmen intended to shoot anyone but had only wanted to rob the group, which was due to carry out diving and marine research off the island in a project organised by the British group Frontier.

Last night British consular officials in Dar es Salaam said the two suspects were believed to have carried out a number of similar attacks in the area, including a violent robbery on foreign divers in February.

According to the Foreign Office, armed crime throughout Tanzania is increasing and there have been two serious attacks recently against expatriates on Zanzibar and Pemba islands.

Since being discharged from hospital in Dar es Salaam on Sunday, Miss Forster and Mr Scott have been staying at Frontier's headquarters.

Mr Scott's father, Ian, voiced relief yesterday as he described how his son telephoned and told him that he still had a 9mm bullet lodged in his leg.

He said: "This isn't going to shake Robert. The bullet was fired as a warning shot as the pirates stormed into the tent. He was discharged from hospital yesterday and although he was moving around he is still in a lot of pain."

A Frontier spokesman, William Hedley Miller, said the attack was the first of its kind since the company began operating in Tanzania in 1989 and added that he believed the group had taken the necessary safety precautions.

Mr Miller said: "The security arrangements were utterly satisfactory in our opinion. A very unfortunate and unforeseeable event happened which we couldn't have anticipated."

Miss Forster's parents, Ian and Pauline Forster, said they were "interested" to hear of the two suspects being arrested. But Mrs Forster said: "The reports we had were that there were between four and seven in the gang. They have got two of them but there are more of them still at large."

Comments