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  1. ITV Report

Tunisia attack: Why are some of the relatives suing TUI?

The 30 Britons killed in the Sousse beach attack. Credit: ITV News

Families of some of the 30 British victims of the Tunisia terror attack are preparing to sue tour operator TUI after an inquest ruled they were unlawfully killed.

During the inquest at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, TUI was criticised for the advice it gave to customers ahead of the June 26, 2015, attack by gunman Seifeddine Rezgui.

However, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith rejected calls from some relatives to rule that neglect by TUI or the owners of the Rui Imperial Merhaba Hotel in Sousse played a role in the deaths.

He ruled that the victims were "unlawfully killed" and that "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".

Yet some of the families believe TUI failed to ensure adequate security at the hotel where the attack took place and did not do enough to warn holidaymakers about the dangers in Tunisia, which had suffered a fatal terrorist attack in the capital Tunis just three months earlier.

Tunisian police officers guard the Rui Imperial Merhaba Hotel during a visit by security officials after the deadly attack. Credit: AP
  • What was the Foreign Office advice on travelling to Tunisia before the attack?

Prior to the beach attack which left 38 people dead there had been other terror attacks in Tunisia.

In October 2013 a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of another Sousse beach hotel, the Riadh Palm. However, no one else was injured in this attack.

Security forces also foiled another attack nearby.

In March 2015, just three months before the deadly attack in Sousse, gunmen stormed the Bardo National Museum, killing 23 people.

During the inquest into the deaths of the 30 Britons killed by Rezgui, a Foreign Office official told how the UK's travel advice to Tunisia was discussed the day after the attack at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis in March 2015, but it was left unchanged.

Jane Marriott, a former director of the Foreign Office's Middle East North Africa Directorate, said FCO officials and minister Tobias Ellwood met in London to discuss the travel advice.

Ms Marriott said it was decided to keep the advice at the same level, and not to advise Britons against any travel to tourist areas of Tunisia, but the phrase "further attacks are possible" was added to the Government's travel advice website.

She added that countries who also lost nationals in the first attack, including France, Japan, Spain and Russia, had also kept their tourist travel advice at the same level as before the attack.

The only country to alter its travel advice was Poland.

Floral tributes for the victims of the attack. Credit: AP
  • What did TUI do?

Tour operator TUI also did not alter its Tunisia travel advice, but provided its employees with a crib sheet on the Bardo attack if potential holidaymakers asked for information.

However, TUI did cancel some organised trips in Tunisia.

  • What was security at the Rui Imperial Merhaba Hotel like?

Three months before the Sousse beach attack, a security check at the Rui Imperial Merhaba Hotel by the British Embassy in Tunisia found that there "seemed to be little in the way of security to respond to an attack".

While the number of security guards increased from seven or eight, to 10 or 11, following the Bardo Museum attack, none of the guards had walkie-talkies and only six CCTV cameras in the hotel worked, Judge Loraine-Smith told the inquest.

On the day of the shooting there were only three guards on duty at the hotel, two of who did not have mobile phones.

According to the inquest coroner, the security guard on the beach "ran and hid" when he saw the gunman shooting tourists.

Gunman Seifeddine Rezgui killed 38 people in the terror attack. Credit: AP
  • What do the families say?

Lawyer Kylie Hutchinson read a statement on behalf of the families outside of the Royal Courts of Justice in London in which they lamented the "shocking... level of security precautions" at the hotel at the time of the attack.

Ms Hutchinson continued: "The level of terrorist threat in Tunisia had been escalating for some time prior to June 2015.

"This includes the failed suicide bomb attack at a beach in Sousse.

"Then, following the terrifying events at the Bardo Museum in March 2015, the Tunisian minister of tourism issued a letter requiring all hotels to improve security measures. "Tragically these steps were not implemented at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel."

She said tour operator TUI had said it was "unaware" of the letter.

  • Is Tunisia travel advice different now?

The Foreign Office advises against "all but essential travel" to the majority of Tunisia, and "against all travel" to the remaining parts.

TUI is not now offering any holidays to Tunisia.

Speaking outside court following the conclusion of the inquest, TUI UK Managing Director, Nick Longman, said the company has " taken steps to raise awareness of the FCO’s Travel Aware campaign".

Mr Longman added the tour operator now includes links "on almost every page" of its website and travel brochures to the FCO advice, and that its employees are trained on how to give advice.

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