Hartlepool teacher caught up in Nairobi mall terror

Adam Waller
Adam Waller

A HARTLEPOOL teacher working in Africa has witnessed first hand the terror of the atrocities in Nairobi.

Adam Waller, a former Manor College of Technology pupil who went out to Africa to teach in Tanzania six weeks ago, has told the Mail that he was in Nairobi for a teaching conference when news of the shopping centre attack broke and was less than 15 minutes away.

He also revealed that one of his students and a colleague lost family members in the siege – carried out by Somali Islamist al-Shabab militants – on the Westgate shopping centre during which 65 people were killed and almost 200 wounded.

He spoke to the Mail via his Facebook account due to telephone connection problems and said: “I was actually in Nairobi at the time it happened. A student of mine lost two close relatives and a colleague lost his cousin. There are no details yet about what happened. I was in Nairobi until Sunday afternoon so saw the full range of emotions of many of my Kenyan friends – it was a surreal time.”

Adam’s conference ended and was making his way back to his hotel, dropping another teacher off close to the mall, when the firing started.

Initially, locals were not aware of the gravity of the incident so Adam and his friends attended a rugby game at the National Stadium. It was only when he was heading back to the hotel and he listened to the radio that he realised “how big this was”.

He said: “Driving on motorway near the mall and seeing what seemed like half a dozen helicopters in the air struck home that I was there. From then on everybody was very subdued, and some got quite emotional. I hadn’t contacted my parents and they didn’t know if I was safe. It was a harrowing time for them too.”

He added: “The Kenyan people I know are determined that this won’t grind them down. They have been very worried that this will put me off going back to Nairobi but it definitely hasn’t. I came back to Tanzania on Sunday night to find a dozen messages on Facebook and Twitter asking if I was ok. I think my Mam would have me home now if she could.” Fifty-one people are still missing after militants stormed the shopping mall on Saturday, throwing grenades and firing atshoppers and staff. At least 18 foreigners are among the dead, including six Britons. Nearly 200 people were wounded.