Sidmouth couple’s civil war escape ordeal

Parents-of-two fled paradise

A SIDMOUTH couple have revealed how they fled paradise amid the sound of gunfire as civil war erupted.

James and Barbara Sweetman feared never seeing their first grandchild when they deserted their idyllic African home of 20 years.

The parents-of-two, whose family base is in Peaslands Road, have since suffered sleepless nights over concerns for employees and friends - who they consider as family-in Ivory Coast.

This week they hailed the fact their small west coast village has not fallen victim to militia murder, violence, atrocities and looting, as an “absolute miracle.”

James, 64, escaped being caught up in the crossfire of a gun battle by a matter of moments. “He came home from work and said: ‘there’s guys with guns and machetes. I think we should get going’”, said Barbara, 63.

The couple faced a tense moment when challenged by young militia at an informal road block when they headed for the airport. “They were armed with Kalashnikovs, they were drunk, they were drugged, they had knives,” said Barbara. The couple manage a rare fruit export company in the country.

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“There have been horrendous massacres,” they said.