Terror attack in which Blackpool couple were killed ‘could have been stopped’

Denis Thwaites, 70 and Elaine Thwaites, 69, of Blackpool
Denis Thwaites, 70 and Elaine Thwaites, 69, of Blackpool
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Shocked relatives heard how armed police could have stopped a Tunisia terrorist massacre but instead deliberately delayed their arrival at the scene.

They also watched CCTV footage of Islamic fanatic Seifeddine Rezgui killing men and woman on the beach at Sousse before continuing his killing spree in the five-star Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel, as an inquest into the shootings, which claimed 38 lives, started in London yesterday.

Blackpool couple Denis and Elaine Thwaite were among the victims on June 26, 2015.

Mr Thwaites, 70, an ex-professional footballer for Birmingham City and a hotel porter and Mrs Thwaites, 69, a former hotel worker, were staying at the Imperial Marhaba.

The court was told that an internal investigation had revealed armed Tunisian police deliberately delayed their arrival at the massacre scene.

Samantha Leek QC, counsel to the inquest, said the inquest would hear evidence from that report citing an unnamed interior minister as saying some Tunisian security officers nearby had consciously slowed down their arrival.

Ms Leek said: “He said the units that should have intervened in the events deliberately and unjustifiably slowed down to delay their arrival at the hotel.

“They had the ability to put an end to the attack before the police arrived but wasted a considerable amount of time.”

in getting to the hotel.”

Ms Leek said a report by Tunisian Judge Akremi had identified failings by local units which could have ended the slaughter before more police arrived and shot Rezgui dead.

She said the inquest would hear evidence from that report citing an unnamed interior minister as saying some Tunisian security officers nearby had consciously slowed down their arrival.

Ms Leek said: “He said the units that should have intervened in the events deliberately and unjustifiably slowed down to delay their arrival at the hotel.

“They had the ability to put an end to the attack before the police arrived but wasted a considerable amount of time in getting to the hotel.”

Footage shown to the inquest included the shooting of 72-year-old grandfather Bruce Wilkinson, from Goole, East Yorkshire. A woman, believed to be a family member, left the room before it was shown.

Another clip was shown of the gunman being dropped off in a white van, before walking away carrying a large item.

In another he was seen walking along the shoreline, past a tent and yellow boats, with people seen running in panic in what is believed to have been the beginning of the attack.

Ms Leek added that on June 26 2015 Rezgui “entered the hotel from the beach, carrying an automatic weapon and a number of explosives”.

She added: “He systematically took the lives of 38 people who had travelled to Tunisia for enjoyment, luxury and relaxation.”

An armed guard on the beach opened fire on Rezgui, but fell to the ground “seemingly unconscious” after the gunman threw a grenade at him, she added.

This led to a local speedboat driver, named as AI, picking his gun up and attempting to confront Rezgui. However he was unable to work the weapon.

She said Rezgui was thought to have acted alone on the beach - albeit with an accomplice in a van nearby - and AI brandishing the gun may have sparked reports at the time of a second gunman involved in the shooting.

The hearing, scheduled to last for seven weeks, will also examine security in place at the hotel by tour firm TUI and the travel advice issued for Tunisia by the UK Government.