'Evil' Ideology Tore Apart Lives Of Family Of Birmingham City Player

26 January 2017, 18:17

Denis and Elaine Thwaites funeral programme

The family of a former Birmingham City player killed in the shootings in Tunisia have told an inquest an "evil and twisted'' ideology has torn apart their lives.

Denis Thwaites, 70, and his wife Elaine, 69, of Blackpool, were among 38 tourists who died in the beach massacre in the Mediterranean resort of Sousse on June 26 2015.

Their daughter, Lindsey, sat quietly beside her husband, Daniel Clifford, as he paid a moving tribute to the couple at London's Royal Courts of Justice.

Forcing himself to keep his composure, Mr Clifford told the inquest: "Lindsey, myself and our family's lives have been torn apart due to an ideology that is both evil and twisted. They may have taken the best but they will never break the love we shared as a family.''

Gunman Seifeddine Rezgui opened fire at the five-star Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel.

Mr Thwaites was shot in the chest and Mrs Thwaites was shot in the chest and pelvis. They were among 30 Britons who were killed.

Mr Clifford said Mrs Thwaites was like a "second mum and a great friend'' to him, adding: "She was beautiful inside and out, elegant and looked her best without even trying.''

Reading a statement on behalf of his wife, he said: "I idolised my dad, looked up to him and loved him unconditionally. He was my shining light, my star.

"I will never get over this horrendous tragedy of losing both parents in this vicious and callous attack. We will find a new normal with them both in our hearts and minds forever.''

Relatives of other British victims sat at the back of the court and wiped away tears as Mr Clifford spoke.

Describing his father-in-law as "just the best'', he said: "Lindsey and Elaine were his world and he would do everything to keep them safe.''

They had already booked a surprise birthday holiday to the Dominican Republic in November 2015 to celebrate Mrs Thwaites's 70th birthday and Mr Clifford's 40th birthday, which were two days apart.

Mr Thwaites broke into the Birmingham City first team at the age of 16 in 1961, and turned professional the following year.

The winger played several games in the First Division at the start of the 1962-63 season.

His last appearance came in the 1971-72 season, and he retired from professional football in 1972 and went on to work at a local hospital.

Mr Clifford recalled a tribute from friend and team-mate Malcolm Page, recalling a time when Mr Thwaites played football with George Best on a beach in Majorca and "ran him ragged''.

In Mr Page's words, the court was told: ``George Best was an admirer of Denis's skills. Denis was much more than that, he was the best friend and colleague anyone could have and it was a great privilege to call him my friend.''

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