Family of Carlton Colville man killed in Tunisian terror attack prepare for London Marathon tribute
- Credit: Nick Butcher
The heartbroken widow and daughter of a holiday terror attack victim have spoken of their hurt, as they prepare to run the London Marathon in his memory.
Stuart Cullen, of Carlton Colville, near Lowestoft, was one of 38 lives taken in the massacre at the Sousse resort in Tunisia in 2015.
His wife, Christine, survived the attack and has spoken candidly of how her life changed forever that day, and how she has defiantly refused to let grief consume her.
She said: 'When something so horrific happens, you have two choices; you can either let it consume you, or look at what you have and thank the heavens for that. I have a beautiful home, a beautiful daughter, and that is what I live for.
'It would have been so easy to hide away in a ball afterwards but that would be letting terrorism win - Stuart would never have had that.
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'He was a proud family man and a man of great integrity and a sense of duty.'
Last month, Mrs Cullen gave evidence at her husband's inquest, held at the Royal Courts of Justice, an experience she said was incredibly difficult.
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'Giving my statement was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. It was having to relive the whole thing all over, but I felt it was something I really had to do, as the last thing I could do for him.'
Emma-Jayne, their 24-year-old daughter, who attended the hearing with her mother, said: 'We learned lovely things about all the other families that were involved, then the horrifying things that they had to go through. We didn't attend the whole hearing, so those who had to be there the whole time must have such incredible strength.'
Miss Cullen, a freelance photographer, was working in London at the time of the attacks, and feared the worse as news broke from Tunisia.
She said: 'I was working in television at the time, so when the news came out I followed it from the very start and tried to find out as much as I could. I couldn't get hold of my parents so when the call I was dreading did come I wasn't hugely shocked, instead I went into a state of emergency.'
In the aftermath, the pair described their family as being 'three musketeers' and say the tragedy has made them closer than ever.
Miss Cullen, who has since moved back from the capital, said: 'We were always a close family but now we are also best friends.'
Mrs Cullen added: 'We still have our arguments, and I have to share the television remote, but we are definitely closer together.'
As well as having each other's support, the pair have also been cared for by their community, who have helped them in the darkest of times.
Staff and patrons of The King Alfred pub in Burnt Hill Way, where Mr Cullen was a regular, have rallied around the pair from the very beginning - holding fundraising events and providing constant support.
Mrs Cullen said: 'We have had tremendous support over the past two years. Without our friends and family we would not be where we are now.'
Her daughter added: 'It has been hell, but in a way it has brought all of our friends in the community together. I cannot say enough about the level of support we have received.'
Since Mr Cullen's death, the mother and daughter have dedicated themselves to fundraising for Meningitis Now, a charity he felt strongly about.
At 14 months old, the illness almost claimed Miss Cullen's life, leading to Mr Cullen always wanting to do something to support the fight against it.
This provided the pair with their motivation to take on the gruelling 26.2 mile road race.
Miss Cullen said: 'Running the marathon for Meningitis Now is something I've had on my bucket list for a while, so my mum suggested we do it. Fundraising has helped us a great deal - it has given us something to focus on and distract us at the same time.'
Both women have been training hard for the occasion, something they feel may have been tougher were Mr Cullen still alive.
Mrs Cullen said: 'He had such a sense of humour and loved practical jokes. There certainly would have been some knots tied in leggings. He would never have thought we would do this'
Miss Cullen added: 'He would have thought we were mad, but would also be so proud of us both. It wouldn't have stopped him tying our laces together though.'
A fundraising page has been set up the sponsor the pair, as they look to raise at least £4,000.
They are also holding a 'Ladies Night' event at the Redherring in Lowestoft on Sunday, April 9.