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1982: 'I caught him before he hit the ground'
Bill Lewis was a chauffeur for the chief executive of the international currency printers De La Rue.

On 3 June 1982 he was waiting outside the Dorchester Hotel - where the company was holding a dinner - and witnessed the attempted assassination of Israeli ambassador Shlomo Argov.

He told On This Day how he held the severely wounded Mr Argov in his arms until the ambulance arrived.

It was late in the evening. It must have been 10pm - the sort of time that those dinners would finish.

I was with the other chauffeur at the side door, just hovering around. Some of the members of De La Rue were taking coats and seeing people to cars.

There was a lot more blood than was good for a man who wanted to stay alive

A car drove up and the rear door was opened. A man walked from the side door of the Dorchester Hotel. As he got to the car and was bending down to get in somebody ran up behind him.

A shot rang out. There were two shots, but to me it sounded like a shot and an echo.

[The gunman] turned to his right and ran. I was six feet away from the man who had been hit.

I caught him before he hit the ground. I was a gymnastics instructor in my younger days and very athletic so leaping forward to grab somebody was just like standing in for somebody on the horizontal bar.

Pulse

His back was to me. I think I caught him under the arms to stop him hitting the ground, then realised there was a lot of blood coming down from his head.

As I got hold of him (I didn't know it was Shlomo Argov at the time), the chauffeur started to move the car and I shouted at him to leave it there.

It was only at that moment that it occurred to me there was a gunman behind me, possibly, and there could be a another on the other side of Park Lane facing me.

So I wanted the car left in the way. It was only then I had any idea of the situation I was in.

The first thing I did was feel for a pulse and I found one on his neck, but that's when I found there was a lot more blood than was good for a man who wanted to stay alive.

I said I'd move for a doctor and nobody else

I found two holes [in his head] and faced a big decision. He was alive, but blood was pouring out of him. Should I stop the blood and push my fingers in the whole? Or would that cause his brain to burst?

I decided that I would stop the blood and let it go a little bit at a time and that's what I did.

The police behind me were putting out a white tape. There was obviously a big police presence there because of all the diplomats at the dinner.

Then a police inspector came forward and told me to get behind the tape. I was very rude to him.

I told him to go away and I said I'd move for a doctor and nobody else.

Ambulance

Suddenly there was a doctor there. A tall, older man who said he was the Queen's surgeon and who'd been at dinner.

I said to him: "What shall I do?" And he said, "I'm an old man, I can't get down where you are. Are you alright down there?"

I said, "Yes, but am I doing the right thing?" I told him what I was doing and he said, "You're doing fine, stay with it."

We waited until the ambulance arrived, which was about 15 minutes - quite a long time.

Then the chauffeur pulled the car away and the ambulance pulled in. The ambulance guys jumped out and as soon as they did I handed Shlomo Argov to them and stepped back.

A long time after I contacted the Israeli embassy to ask them if Shlomo Argov was still alive. The embassy said it was an inappropriate time to ask.

I just didn't pursue it any more.

In the back of my mind was the thought that I didn't want to ask - because maybe he had died and it was my fault.

Shlomo Argov survived the attack, but was paralysed for the rest of his life.

He died in February 2003.

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Shlomo Argov in 1982
Shlomo Argov was paralysed for life after the attack


Bill Lewis
Bill Lewis says he was only a few feet away when the shots were fired
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