TIRGOVISTE, Romania — A panic-stricken Elena Ceausescu turned to her ousted dictator husband as they were put before a firing squad and said: "Nicolae, they are going to shoot us," and then tried to break loose, according to an army captain who saw the execution.
The officer, identified only as Gheorghe, said Ceausescu's wife struggled to get free when she realized she was about to die.
She and her husband were put against a wall and shot.
The army and civilian authorities who overthrew Ceausescu's repressive 24-year rule in last month's bloody revolution have given conflicting details of the couple's last hours before their execution Christmas Day.
A deputy police commander told Romanian television they were kept at a barracks near Buftea, north of Bucharest, after being taken there by two policemen following an abortive attempt to flee.
Militia and army officials at Tirgoviste said the couple was tried and executed at the local military barracks, near the railway station.
Breaking the strict taboo against conversations with foreigners which Ceausescu imposed, soldiers, policemen, taxi drivers and waitresses eagerly discussed the hunting down and capture of their former leader with two journalists visiting Tirgoviste, a town of 60,000 inhabitants northwest of Bucharest.
Soldiers and militia said the Ceausescus were tried and shot without delay because the barracks was attacked by helicopters manned by Securitate forces determined to free them.
"The helicopters attacked the barracks, shooting machine-gun fire," a local militia chief said, adding that several people were killed.
Local residents said Ceausescu, lifted by helicopter from the roof of the Communist Party headquarters in Bucharest Dec. 22 as a crowd turned against him, landed in Buftea and headed for a secret airport 30 miles from Tirgoviste.
According to these accounts, he and his wife were spotted being driven by their chauffeur to a metallurgy complex whose manager was a friend, and Ceausescu shot dead a factory guard who recognized him.
The couple fled as a crowd gathered and in the ensuing chase were forced to change cars after running out of gas.
They were finally surrounded at an agriculture center. Two militiamen anxious to avoid a lynching took them away in a van loaded with radar equipment and handed them over to the army.