Page last updated at 14:05 GMT, Monday, 12 October 2009 15:05 UK

Bombed hotel 'like building site'

By Clark Ainsworth
BBC News, Brighton

Chris Williams
Chris Williams transported Norman Tebbit's wife, Margaret, to hospital

"It was like a building site in there really, a demolition site, and we were just clawing away with a whole load of people."

Chris Williams, who still works for the West Sussex Ambulance service, was one of the first paramedics on the scene of the Grand Hotel in Brighton after the IRA bomb went off.

Exactly 25 years on, he recalls the explosion which came close to killing much of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet.

The bomb had been planted by Patrick Magee 24 days earlier, behind a bath in a sixth-floor room that was never searched.

Five people were killed and 34 others were hurt.

One of the most-remembered images of the night was Norman Tebbit, the then secretary of state for trade and industry, being rescued from the rubble.

Lord Tebbit's wife, Margaret, was so badly injured in the blast that she would never walk again.

"I'm now told that it was Lord Tebbit that we were trying to get to," Mr Williams said.

The Grand Hotel, Brighton
Five people were killed and 34 injured in the explosion

"With help from other people we got Lady Berry [wife of Conservative MP Sir Anthony Berry] on to one of the stretchers and into the ambulance and the same with Mrs Tebbit.

"We took them both at the same time.

"It was quite obvious to me and my crew mate that Mrs Tebbit was really very poorly, we were very concerned for her.

"Lady Berry, as I remember, didn't have any major injuries as such and she was talking on the way.

"She was concerned for her husband. He died in the explosion."

Magee, who was given eight life sentences at the Old Bailey in 1986, was released from prison in 1999 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

I was scared because I thought there might be another bomb going off
Margaret Lehaney

Mr Williams said the fact that the hotel might have been blown up deliberately did not cross his mind at the time.

"I don't think it dawned on us that this was a terrorist attack and this was a bomb, initially. That didn't sink in probably until the following morning.

"Like everybody else, we just got on with it. I was just one of a very large number [who helped on the night]."

"I will never forget it," he said. "I drive past here when I come over to Brighton from time to time and I still have a little look, you can't help it.

"I was just lucky to be doing a job that night that I could actually help and do something."

Margaret Lehaney
Margaret Lehaney was distraught for a long time after the bombing

Another person who found herself looking after traumatised guests was senior waitress Margaret Lehaney.

She is the only remaining member of staff at the Grand Hotel who was working at the time of the bombing.

"I came down the road and the police stopped me at the roundabout and they told me that the hotel had been bombed," Ms Lehaney said.

"I got such a fright. I went across the road and saw all the fire engines and the water oozing out of the building. I was devastated.

"I was scared because I thought there might be a bomb, another one, going off somehow."

She was sent to the nearby Metropole Hotel to help care for the guests who had been evacuated from the Grand.

"They were very shocked. Some of them were [covered] in dust. But I got myself really into it, looking after them.

"'I've got to get on with it' was what I was thinking."

Speaking of the impact of the bombing had on her, she said: "I was distraught for a long time.

"We did have the police interviewing us afterwards, so it kept it in our minds for a long time."



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