Sat, Nov 29, 2008 - Page 5 News List

MUMBAI ATTACKS: Briton gave details of attack by phone hours before death


A British-Cypriot businessman was on Thursday named as one of 125 people killed in the Mumbai attacks, hours after he gave an interview describing how he was trapped in a hotel with gunmen outside.

The British Foreign Office announced that one Briton was among the dead, and Cypriot foreign ministry officials later confirmed reports that the man was 73-year-old Andreas Liveras, a yacht tycoon who emigrated to London in 1963.

The Cyprus News Agency reported his brother Theophanis as saying that Liveras had been abducted with a large group of other diners and “assassinated in cold blood during the terrorist attacks.”

As news filtered out from Mumbai after the attacks, Liveras gave a telephone interview to the BBC from the Taj Mahal hotel, one of two luxury hotels targeted by gunmen in a series of coordinated attacks across the city.

He had heard it was the best restaurant in Mumbai, but told the British broadcaster: “As soon as we sat at the table we heard the machine gun fire outside in the corridors, everywhere.”

“We hid ourselves under the table and then they switched all the lights off. But the machine gun kept going, and they took us into the kitchen, and from there into a basement, to come up into a salon,” he said.

He estimated there were “more than 1,000 people” in the room, a mixture of residents, tourists and locals.

“We’re not hiding, we are locked in here — nobody tells us anything, the doors are locked and we are inside,” Laveras said.

“We have got hotel staff here at this moment who are helping us a lot, providing water and sandwiches. But nobody is eating really, people are frightened,” Liveras said.

He said: “It’s very quiet. The last bomb exploded about 45 minutes ago and it shook the hotel up. Nobody comes in this room and nobody goes out, and we don’t really know.”

“All we know is the bombs are next door and the hotel is shaking every time a bomb goes off,” he said.

The interviewer put to him that he must be terrified, to which Liveras replied: “Everybody is ... We are just looking at each other, and every time you hear something everybody jumps. Everybody is just living on their nerves.”

Liveras ran a chartered yacht company in Monaco where he advertised “the world’s most impressive private yachts to the charter community.”

In his online biography, he described how he worked as a delivery man for a bakery when he first arrived in London, before buying the shop and turning it into a major wholesaler. He sold it and moved into the yachting business.

Laveras was ranked 265 in the Sunday Times newspaper’s list of the richest people in the UK.

Britain’s High Commissioner to India Sir Richard Stagg earlier told the BBC that seven Britons had been injured in the attacks.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced Britain was sending specialist police officers to India to help investigators probing the attacks, and would do “whatever is necessary” to protect its citizens from the “horrific incident.”

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