Freelance witnesses aftermath in Madrid - Press Gazette

Freelance witnesses aftermath in Madrid

Jones’s (inset) material was used in the Sunday Mirror

Beauty journalist-turned-freelance Hayley Jones was on the spot when the worst terrorist outrage in Europe since Lockerbie killed 202 people in the Madrid train bombings.

Jones, from Chester, had switched from writing about beauty for Hair and Total Style to try her luck freelancing in Spain.

A languages graduate who speaks Spanish, French and Italian, Jones was named PTC student journalist of the year after training with PMA.

She had been commissioned by the Ferrari news agency to be its Madrid-based Beckham correspondent less than three weeks before the devastating bomb attacks on the Spanish capital’s rail network.

Jones said: “I live near to the Atocha railway station. I heard the explosion, followed by ambulance after ambulance.

I turned on the television, saw there had been a bomb and went straight there.

“I think I was the first British journalist at the scene. All the other reporters were in La Manga covering the Leicester City footballers.

“I’ll never forget arriving at Atocha. It was terrible. There were firemen dragging people out of the wreckage. There were people with their faces burnt off.

“Ferrari asked me to try to interview the British survivors at the main hospital. I was the only female reporter there; I think I got into the hospital because I am small and blonde and don’t look like a journalist. The rest of the journalists were men and were kept away by student doctors.”

Jones said that once inside, medical staff were very helpful and a doctor even lent her a mobile to ring the Ferrari news agency.

She spent the whole night at the hospital and, along with Nick Fagge of the Daily Express, managed to get an interview with injured Denise Anne Riley from Belfast. Her material was used by many national dailies and Sundays.

Now back on the Beckham beat, Jones told Press Gazette: “At the time the bombings didn’t really affect me, although when I saw some of the aftermath I thought I was going to drop on the floor. But it has hit me now. It has given me new values. The Beckhams have got so much money and so much fame, which everybody seems to want, but the most important thing is to have a life and be healthy.”

Ferrari director Matthew Bell said: “Bearing in mind the circumstances, which would have been difficult enough for an experienced journalist, Hayley performed extremely well,” he said. “She was able to get alongside victims and their families and talk to them in a sympathetic way.”

This week Jones got a massive showing in the British press for her story on how one of the terror suspects behind the Madrid bombing, Mohammed Bekkali, had met David Beckham. She was bylined on the Daily Star splash and interviewed by BBC Radio Five Live.

By Jon Slattery