Doncaster singer Tony Christie's terror as tour bus ambushed by armed gang in France

Doncaster born singer Tony Christie has told of his terror after he and his band had their tour bus ambushed in France by an armed gang.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 12th December 2016, 8:59 am
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 12:36 pm
Doncaster singer Tony Christie.
Doncaster singer Tony Christie.

The 73-year-old and his wife Sue, 68, were asleep on the Jumbo Cruiser vehicle heading home through France when a gang of five men surrounded their driver as he filled up at a petrol station in Dunkirk in the early hours of Saturday.

As the driver Gareth Owen was distracted by the gang, another broke into a trailer carrying stage equipment.

According to the Daily Mail when the gang dispersed, Christie's tour manager Paul Smith opened up the trailer and found the stowaway, who bolted out and threatened to kill him with a crowbar he was carrying, before finally fleeing into the night.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

In the melee, one of the guitarists fell as he rushed out of the coach and broke his wrist.

The petrol station where the attack took place is close to Grande-Synthe migrant camp, which sits alongside the A16 motorway connecting Dunkirk and Calais.

Last night, Christie, who scored a number one hit in 2005 with Comic Relief charity single (Is This The Way To) Amarillo, said: 'I couldn't believe it. They could have got into the coach, what the hell would they have done?

'It's the second time it's happened to the coach driver. The first time he was stabbed by a spike. These poor drivers take a hell of a risk.

'I feel really sorry for these people, I know they're desperate but we shouldn't be scared to travel. I think I will fly from now on, I don't think I'll go on the road again.'

Before the attack, Christie and his band had been travelling overnight from Bonn, in Germany, where they played the final show of a European tour on Friday.

After the concert, they boarded their coach for a party to celebrate the end of the tour – which marked 50 years since the start of Christie's career – Sue's 68th birthday.

'The band had got together in Bonn and bought a cake for Sue', said Christie.

'We had an end-of-tour party on board. There were some beers, nice wine and fizz so it was a nice do. My wife and I left to go to bed and then the next thing we know our tour manager is shaking and so is the coach driver.

'The driver was filling up at the station when he was surrounded by about five of them. He shouted, 'There's cameras everywhere filming you', and they ran off.

'But then our tour manager found a man hiding with the stage equipment in the trailer.' The stowaway is believed to have prised open the trailer as his gang of accomplices distracted the driver at the front of the coach.

When he was discovered, the stowaway launched himself towards the tour manager from the elevated trailer and stamped a foot down on his shoulder.

He then turned to Mr Smith and screamed, 'I'll ******* kill you', before running off. Christie added: 'It was a very sour end to the tour. We had been celebrating because it had been a great tour but it put a real dampener on it. Everyone went silent.'

The singer, who lives with his wife in a gated community in Lichfield, Staffordshire, started out singing in the working men's clubs of Sheffield in the Sixties.

He had a couple of top 20 hits in the Seventies, including (Is This The Way To) Amarillo in 1971 which reached number 18 in the UK charts, but enjoyed his best success with the re-release of the song in 2005.

It went to number one and became the highest-selling number one single of the year.

The Conisbrough-born star began his career playing the pubs and clubs of South Yorkshire before breaking into the big time.