Family and friends have paid glowing tribute to a “much loved” couple from Leeds who were killed in the Tunisia beach massacre.
Christopher and Sharon Bell, of Killingbeck, were yesterday confirmed among 38 people killed by gunman Seifeddine Rezgui in the resort of Sousse on Friday.
The tributes came as the bodies of more Britons killed in the massacre were being flown back to the UK, and the Tunisian government said it had arrested 12 suspects in connection with the atrocity.
Eight Britons gunned down in the terror attack were brought back to British soil yesterday.
They included the youngest known victim, Joel Richards, 19, who was killed alongside his uncle Adrian Evans and his grandfather Patrick Evans at the beach resort of Sousse last Friday.
In Leeds, the Bells are believed to leave three children and a number of grandchildren.
In a statement, the family said: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of both mum Sharon and dad Christopher, who were taken from us during the terrorist attacks in Tunisia.
“Currently we have very little information surrounding the circumstances of the tragedy and we are working with the authorities to gather as much information as possible.
“As a family we are grieving and we would ask that our privacy be respected at this difficult time. Our thoughts are with all those affected by the tragedies.”
Mrs Bell had worked as a domiciliary care manager for Horsforth-based Avanta Care for the last couple of years.
Company bosses took the decision to close the office yesterday as shocked staff struggled to come to terms with what had happened.
Business development manager Craig Roberts said he broke down in tears when the couple’s son, Jonathan, contacted him to break the news.
Mr Roberts told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “Sharon is going to be very sadly missed by all of our clients and colleagues.
“What’s really sad is that she spent her life looking after other people. She was a very caring, loving woman and all our thoughts and prayers are with her family at this difficult time.”
He said Mr Bell had been to company Christmas parties with his wife, adding: “He was a really lovely man. It’s just devastating news.”
Mr Roberts said it was not clear if the office would reopen today.
Mr Bell worked in the ticket office at Leeds City Station.
Northern Rail HR director Adrian Thompson said: “We were deeply shocked and saddened to hear that our colleague Christopher Bell and his wife Sharon were among those killed in terrorist attacks in Tunisia.
“Christopher was a much loved and highly valued colleague and will be sadly missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”
Mrs Bell was a customer of Tan Express in Crossgates.
Salon manager Laura Dumberline said: “I have a lot of customers but very few I grow a relationship with Sharon was one of the few. Me and my staff are very upset and send our greatest sympathy to all her family.”
Mechanic Mark Brady added: “I did their cars for years. I’ve watched their kids growing up. I’ve watched their grandkids growing up. It’s devastating, absolutely devastating.”
Mr and Mrs Bell were among as many as 30 Britons killed by 23-year-old student Rezgui.
News of their deaths came as eight victims were flown back to the UK.
Tunisian authorities are questioning several suspected associates of Rezgui, who had links to the terror group Islamic State.
They have said he acted alone during the rampage but had accomplices who supported him before, providing him with weapons and logistical support.
A minute’s silence will be held in memory of the victims at noon on Friday, a week after the outrage.
Flags are expected to be flown at half-mast over government departments and Buckingham Palace that day.
Leeds East MP Richard Burgon said he was shocked and saddened by news of the deaths of Mr and Mrs Bell.
“My thoughts – and the thoughts of people across our area – are with the family and friends of Mr and Mrs Bell,” he said.
“This unspeakable tragedy will have affected so many lives here in East Leeds.
“MPs have been told that there will be a dedicated Foreign Office liaison officer for every family affected. I have contacted the Foreign Office to ask them to promptly and compassionately assist with the needs of the Bell family. I am ready to assist the Bell family in whatever way I can, should they require my support.”