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  1. ITV Report

Tunisia attack: Tour operators did not want to scare holidaymakers with 'army of police'

Flowers are placed in tribute to the 38 tourists who were killed by a gunman. Credit: PA

Tour operators wanted to increase security in the Tunisian resort where 30 Britons were killed in a terrorist attack but did not want holidaymakers to be "scared" of an "army of police", an inquest has heard.

A gunman killed 38 people at the Riu Imperial Marhaba hotel in the resort of Sousse in June 2015.

The hearing into the deaths was told that in a meeting a month before the attack there was a discussion about police security and how it could make tourists feel "uncomfortable".

Venancio Lopez, managing director of Tunisie Voyages, a subsidiary of travel company TUI, gave evidence on Wednesday at the Royal Courts of Justice.

He said he was at a meeting with British Embassy officials in Tunis two months after the terror attack at the Bardo National Museum and one month before the Sousse atrocity.

The ages of the victims of the Sousse attack ranged from 19 to 80. Credit: ITV News

The inquest heard that Mr Lopez had a list of points he wanted the British Embassy to raise with Tunisian authorities, including the matter of police security.

In his statement to the inquest, he said: "We wanted to increase the security in general but we didn't want tourists to be scared by seeing an army of police."

Security in the resorts, and how visible it should be, was discussed, and Mr Lopez said: "If security is too evident they feel uncomfortable in the street."

It was decided that hotels should have metal detectors, staff should monitor CCTV, police should patrol the beaches and there would be an extra 400 officers present, the inquest was told.

The inquest was previously told Tunisian security 'delayed their arrival' at attack hotel. Credit: PA

Andrew Ritchie QC, representing victims' families, told the inquest that, according to a statement from another witness, it was the responsibility of Mr Lopez to "deliver a holiday that exceeded expectations".

He asked Mr Lopez why TUI UK sent him to meetings about security, suggesting to him that he was sent because he was the only person there.

In relation to security guards, Mr Ritchie read an extract from Mr Lopez's statement which said: "In my experience not all hotels we used had their own security guards. The four- and five-star hotels tended to."

The statement from Mr Lopez also said the guards were never armed and that he believed it was against the law for the guards to be armed.

But Mr Ritchie said the coroner had obtained advice from a legal firm which suggested that there was indeed a route for hotels to arm their guards.

One survivor says he was told travelling to Sousse was '100% safe', an inquest heard on Tuesday. Credit: AP

The inquest heard that out of nine hotels, the Rui Imperial Marhaba had the fewest cameras with six in total, while other hotels had up to 49.

Extremist Seifeddine Rezgui massacred 38 tourists - including three Irish citizens - on June 26, 2015 at the five-star hotel.

Rezgui killed around 10 of his victims on the beach and then entered the hotel from the entrance on the sand.

He was killed by police around an hour later.

On Tuesday the inquest heard that the security in the resort was criticised in a report produced for the UK government six-months before the attack.

The grieving families of victims have said they are 'looking for answers' at the inquest. Credit: AP

A witness statement from Camilla Bekkevold, resort team manager of TUI UK, was also read to the inquest.

Ms Bekkevold said one of the main problems was identifying victims.

"Most people were in swimwear and were not carrying any papers or documents," she said, adding it was a particular problem if a couple had been killed or injured because there was nobody else there asking for them.

"Cleaning ladies reported to us what rooms were not touched. This is how we started to identify some of the people," she said.

The inquest continues.

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