Hundreds turn out to pay last respects to much-loved Tunisia massacre victim Philip Heathcote
Despite her own horrendous injuries suffered in the Tunisia beach massacre, widow Allison Heathcote was determined to be at her husband’s funeral.
Seated in a wheelchair, she was released from Ipswich Hospital for the funeral service – joining hundreds of family, friends, work colleagues and sports players to say farewell to Philip Heathcote, 52, described to the congregation as a “straight-talking, determined, generous and loving man”.
There was standing room only at Seven Hills Crematorium, Nacton, with many more people outside the doors as the pallbearers brought in the coffin to Simply Red’s Holding Back the Years.
Manchester-born Mr Heathcote, like his wife, was a well-known face in the Felixstowe cricket community – he joined Felixstowe Corinthians Cricket Club as a bowler in the early 1990s and stopped playing around 10 years ago to start coaching youngsters and umpiring. He worked for transport company Goldstar.
Conducting the service, David Harrison, chaplain at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, where Mrs Heathcote began her recovery after being brought home from Tunisia, said Mr Heathcote had touched many lives and was greatly loved as a husband, father, brother, uncle, coach and colleague.
Mr Harrison said he was a “dedicated father” and was remembered by all as a “straight-talking, determined, generous and loving man”.
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Paying tribute to his dad, Mr Heathcote’s son James said he had been “a truly great father” as he recalled some of his memories of his father’s cricketing days and matches they played in together.
Graham Heathcote said his brother had been brought up in a sporting family and had enjoyed rugby, playing as a hooker, before turning to cricket and also loved football – the service’s closing music was Glory, Glory Man United.
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He had been a tough but fair coach, insisting young cricketers worked hard, wanting to get the very best from their talent.
He said: “Phil was an honest man, and he wouldn’t hurt anyone, and the way he died shows what a sad world we live in.
“He loved Allison to bits, they were like two peas in a pod and they did everything together.”
It was an event that shocked the world and will leave deep emotional scars – and physical ones for some – on the families caught up in it for the rest of their lives.
When 23-year-old machine gun-wielding student Seifeddine Rezgui opened fire on those sunbathing on the beach at in Sousse on June 26, he created a terrifying and unimaginable scene, from holiday tranquillity to horror and carnage within seconds.
A total of 38 people were killed as they lay on their sunbeds or ran for cover, gunned down dispassionately by Rezgui, who was said to have trained with a militant group in Libya and was himself shot dead by police shortly after the mass shooting.
Of those killed, 30 were British – two from Suffolk: Philip Heathcote, 52, from Felixstowe; and Stuart Cullen, 52, from Lowestoft.
Mr Heathcote was on holiday with his wife Allison, 48, celebrating their 30th wedding on a two-week holiday in Sousse, on the northeast coast of Tunisia.
Mrs Heathcote was left with five gunshot wounds, including injuries to her shoulder and stomach.
She was later airlifted to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where she was put in an induced coma, before continuing her rehabilitation closer to home after being transferred to Ipswich Hospital.