A family from Lepton have told how they escaped Christmas market carnage in Berlin by seconds – after deciding to stop for a bite to eat.
John Thompson, his wife Nicola and 11-year-old daughter Annabelle were almost caught up in the tragedy and were forced to “run for our lives.”
Mr Thompson told how they were heading towards the crowded Christmas market in the heart of the city on Monday night when a suspected terrorist in an articulated truck ploughed into the market in Breitscheidplatz. Twelve people were killed in the attack and 48 others injured.
The driver, reportedly a Pakistani asylum seeker who entered Germany last year, is being questioned.
Businessman Mr Thompson, 59, had taken his family for a three-day trip eager to enjoy the festivities.
He spoke of his shock at what happened and said: “We were very, very close. If we had not stopped for something to eat we would have been 30 yards up at this market that was hit.
“We were contemplating having food elsewhere and were walking towards that end of the market when Nicola saw a BBQ stall selling fancy meat on skewers, kebabs and hot dogs and we decided to stop for some food.
“All of a sudden there was this almighty commotion and this truck was hurtling towards us. I saw the front end of it. We didn’t hang around it and just ran for our lives.
“My daughter thought it was fireworks but everyone else was running away from the scene and we just followed them to the church steps at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
“We didn’t turn back, gathered our thoughts as quickly as possible and went to catch a Tube and returned to our hotel where I ordered a stiff drink.
“We were just glad to have got back safely and relieved to be away from it all. My son Robert rang me five minutes after the incident just to make sure we were OK. I said: ‘We were there!’
“You think these kind of things will never happen to you but it very nearly did. If we had not stopped for the food we would have been right in the middle of it.
“Annabelle was the most shaken up by it. She thought it was fireworks. But today is another day and we have to carry on.
“We thought we would come across for the Christmas markets, it’s the first time we have been to Berlin. We had been to a market on the Sunday night, apparently there are 60 of them and whoever did this had to chose this one.”
Nicola, 48, added: “You never think something like this can happen to you, you can’t believe it, but it did. I just said to John, let’s stop and have some food and were just about to have our picture taken and then there were this lorry rumbling through all the stalls.
“There was lots of shouting and people running. It was very frightening. It’s terrible what has happened to those poor people.”