Response by Tunisian police to beach killings 'at best shambolic, at worst cowardly'

The owners and staff at a Tunisian hotel where 30 British tourists were brutally killed by an Islamic extremist could have done nothing before the attack that would have done more than "possibly make a difference", a coroner said.

Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith said he could not include "neglect" by holiday firm TUI or the owners of the five-star Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel when ruling on the deaths of the British victims of Seifeddine Rezgui.

Rezgui opened fire on the beach and grounds of the Sousse hotel in June 2015, but the judge, sitting as coroner at the victims' inquest, said the law regarding neglect did not cover tourists on holiday.

The lawyers for more than 20 of Rezgui's victims had wanted this included after the lengthy inquest heard evidence from survivors that they were not warned of the danger of holidaying in Tunisia before they left.

The inquests also heard the hotel had just a handful of unarmed guards, while "cowardly" local police delayed their arrival to tackle Rezgui, who killed 38 people in total.

Giving his reasons for rejecting a neglect ruling, Judge Loraine-Smith said there were a lot of "what ifs" around the case, and better hotel security may simply have meant more people died on the beach.

As the packed courtroom watched in silence he said the only factor that may have made a material difference was if the hotel had armed guards.

But Judge Loraine-Smith said: "Having reviewed the legal advice on gun law in Tunisia, it's clear this was not a realistic option."

He added: "The simple but tragic truth in this case is that a gunman armed with a gun and grenades went to that hotel intending to kill as many tourists as he could."

Judge Loraine-Smith added the local police "most certainly" were responsible for tourist security, and said: "Their response could and should have been effective."

He added: "The response by the police was at best shambolic, at worst cowardly."

The judge pointed out that there were customers who believed they had been "reassured" about safety.

The inquest had heard from a holidaymaker who said his wife raised the March 2015 attack at the Bardo Museum in Tunis with a travel agent, and said they had been told it was a "one-off" and the destination was "100% safe".

A Thomson travel agent told the inquest she did not give a safety guarantee to the couple, and that she would not say somewhere is completely safe.

Judge Loraine-Smith said there were customers who would not have gone to Tunisia if they had seen the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice.

"Even prior to the attack on the Bardo Museum the advice was that there was a high threat of terror," he said, adding that the advice pointed out that attacks could be "indiscriminate".


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