Tycoon who described horror of attacks named as British victim

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The Independent Online

As gunmen tore through the corridors of Mumbai's exclusive Taj Mahal Hotel, Andreas Liveras, a British multimillionaire, was one of the guests who managed to describe the terrifying events to the outside world.

Crammed into a salon on the ground floor, the 72-year-old said he was safe and had survived the initial onslaught on the hotel, which began when gunmen burst into the lobby, spraying machine gun fire.

"There must be more than 1,000 people here. There are residents and tourists and locals. We are not hiding, we are locked in here," he told the BBC via mobile phone. "The hotel is shaking every time a bomb goes off. Everybody is living on their nerves."

But as the sun set on the scarred Indian city last night, it emerged that Mr Liveras, who had been in Mumbai for a yacht show, did not make it out of the Taj Mahal alive. Officials at the Cypriot foreign ministry and St George's Hospital in Mumbai confirmed that the British-Cypriot dual-national had been killed by gunshot wounds to the chest.

Like many of the hotel's guests, the shipping tycoon had gone to the Taj hotel for a curry and a convivial drink. Instead he ended up as prey for the AK-47-wielding gunmen scouring the floors looking for foreigners to murder.

Mr Liveras migrated from Cyprus to London in 1963 and took a job as a delivery boy for a bakery in Kensington. Five years later he bought the owner out and turned it into a multimillion-pound enterprise. He sold it in 1985 to set up a yacht company and this year was on The Sunday Times Rich List.

Mr Liveras had gone to visit the Taj on Wednesday because he heard it had the best restaurant in Mumbai. "But as soon as we sat at the table we heard the machine gun fire in the corridor," he said. "We hid under the table and they switched all the lights off. But the machine guns kept going, and they took us into the kitchen, and from there into a basement, before we came up into a salon where we are now." At some point during the next few hours he was gunned down, either by the terrorists or by Indian army commandos as they stormed the building.

A further seven Britons are known to have been injured in the attacks, some of whom are in a critical condition.

A phone line set up to help people track down loved ones took 1,200 calls by last night and a rapid deployment team of trauma specialists and police officers touched down in Mumbai last night.

Gordon Brown said the Government's emergency Cobra committee met twice immediately after the incident and said he was in touch with "a number" of world leaders. The Prime Minister said the attacks had been met by "shock and outrage" around the world and pledged all possible UK support for the Indian authorities. He added: "We've got to do everything we can now to help."