Wales

Swansea Meridian Tower siege hostage speaks of ordeal

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Media captionIan Williams told BBC Wales' Natasha Livingstone that his life passed before his eyes during the ordeal

A waiter taken hostage during a siege in the penthouse restaurant of Wales' tallest tower has spoken of his two hour ordeal with a gun pointing at him.

Ian Williams, 46, was taking his break in Swansea's Meridian Tower when he felt a handgun held by Lindsey Edward Coffey poke into his side.

He said he tried to talk Coffey out of shooting him before police used a stun gun on him.

Coffey pleaded guilty to possessing an imitation gun and false imprisonment.

Swansea Crown Court heard on Monday he had gone to the 107m (351ft) high skyscraper with the intention of taking his own life on 8 August.

Mr Williams said that as Coffey pointed the Glock handgun at him, he said "do as I say and you won't get hurt", before ordering him to get the key to balcony at the Grape & Olive restaurant as he wanted to commit suicide.

Image caption Police vehicles outside the Meridian Tower in August

"I was in such shock," said Mr Williams. "I asked him if that was a real gun and he said yes.

"He was shaking and nervous, you could tell. I think he knew the seriousness of what he was doing.

"That made me more nervous."

'Finger on trigger'

He said he told Coffey to follow him but on the way to get the key, he realised that he should not get it.

He went to the bar and said he would need to ring the manager to bring it.

Instead he called the police and in hushed tones, as he turned away from the pointed gun, he pleaded for help.

Meanwhile, his colleagues had realised what was happening and evacuated the handful of customers who were left in the restaurant following a busy lunch shift - including three children aged about six and their parents.

Image copyright Athena Pictures
Image caption A police cordon was placed around the tower in the marina during the siege

As they fled down a fire escape, Mr Williams managed to keep the police on the phone as they advised him how to manage the situation and reassured him officers were on the way.

"I was shaking, his finger was on the trigger," said Mr Williams. "He just stood there with the gun constantly on me, pacing up and down and saying if I see the police I will shoot you.

"I kept saying 'please don't point that gun at me, take your finger off the trigger'.

"It was the longest two hours of my life. He was getting worse, shaking and sweating and I just kept saying the manager was coming."

'Broke down'

During those two hours alone together, Mr Williams said Coffey told him he was depressed and did not want to live anymore.

Image copyright South Wales Evening Post
Image caption Ian Williams has now returned to work at the Meridian Tower restaurant

"He was adamant he wanted to jump off the tower," added Mr Williams.

Using Mr Williams's mobile phone, a police negotiator eventually managed to speak to Coffey and officers speaking on the other phone advised the waiter to move both himself and the gunman towards the tower's coffee shop.

As they walked, police officers appeared and pushed Mr Williams up some stairs.

"I heard them saying [to Coffey] 'is that a real gun?' He said it was and I heard a bang," said Mr Williams.

"I thought he had shot the police but then I heard the police saying Taser, Taser.

"I just collapsed and broke down with relief."

Over the months that have followed, Mr Williams said he has received counselling but is still jumpy and finds it difficult to sleep.

He took eight weeks off work at the restaurant but has since returned part time.

"It was awful going back. I was really, really nervous," said Mr Williams.

"I was going to hand in my notice but my boss persuaded me to stay."

He has also received a South Wales Police bravery award and is due to be given another from the Lord Mayor of Swansea in January.

After hearing that Coffey had pleaded guilty, Mr Williams said he felt "relieved".

"I did feel sorry for him in a little way," he added.

"He obviously needed help."

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