British teenagers caught up in deadly gun battle involving notorious gang leader at Bulgarian beach bar

The friends told The Independent : 'People came running out of the restaurant area with prams and stuff screaming'

Sunny Beach is Bulgaria's largest and most popular tourist resort
Sunny Beach is Bulgaria's largest and most popular tourist resort

Five British teenagers have been caught up in a gang-related shooting at a beachside bar in Bulgaria while on holiday to celebrate the end of secondary school.

Ross Warbeck, Nathan Smith, Joel Ewart, Jack Adams and Craig Pool were drinking at the 4 You restaurant in Sunny Beach, Burgas, when a gun battle broke out on Wednesday evening.

Ross, 17, told The Independent the group had been enticed into the bar with the promise of free beers, describing it as “really nice” with good music and friendly staff.

“After about 15 minutes Nathan noticed about five men in masks running into the bar in a line and then people started shooting,” he said.

The teenagers, seen around a table in the centre of the image, were photographed by staff at the 4 You restaurant shortly before the shooting on 8 June

“At first we all thought plates had been dropped but then people came running out of the restaurant area with prams and stuff screaming.

“We all ran out of the bar by jumping over the low wall surrounding the pub.

“When we looked back we could see that about 10 more unmasked men outside shooting into the bar, and a gunfight happened for about a minute before they all ran off in different directions - the whole thing seemed well planned out.”

The shooting left a notorious drug lord known as “Mityo the Eyes” in a critical condition with bullet wounds, while a 21-year-old man believed to be one of his bodyguards was killed.

The shocked teenagers, who were celebrating leaving the Langholm Academy in Dumfries and Galloway, were uninjured in the incident and decided to continue their holiday in the resort, which is the largest and most popular on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coastline.

The 4 You restaurant has a five-star rating on a popular reviews website and photos posted on its Facebook page shortly before the shooting showed the restaurant almost full of customers listening to live music.

One image showed the Scottish friends sat at a table in the centre of the outdoor terrace, smiling and chatting surrounded by other diners.

Ross said the photo was taken “minutes before the carnage ensured”, adding: “Up until that point everything has been completely five stars.”

Bulgarian police said the battle was between a gang led by notorious drug lord Dimitar Zhelyazkov, known as Mityo Ochite (“Mityo the Eyes”), and a rival group.

He entered the restaurant with a gang of 30 men, Balkan Insight reported, being welcomed by shots fired by around 10 gunmen.

The chief secretary of the interior ministry, Georgi Kostov, said the gun fight was provoked by a personal dispute, while local reports claimed Zhelyazkov was attempting to extort money.

In 2008 he was convicted of leading a gang involved in drug trafficking and prostitution but received a prison sentence of just four years.

At least 19 people have been arrested in connection with the shooting so far and police are continuing to appeal for information.

It has provoked a political row in Bulgaria, with Prime Minister Boyko Borissov criticising police for failing to prevent the shooting and letting gang members block the area around Burgas hospital and allegedly harass journalists.

The interior minister, who was summoned to parliament for questioning, said plans were being made for increased security measures and more “stringent controls” in the resort.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was aware of the incident but had not been asked to provide assistance.

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