Security audit could have saved lives in Tunisia beach shootings

Denis and Elaine Thwaite
Denis and Elaine Thwaite
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Lives could have been saved if a travel company had carried out a security audit before the Sousse terrorist attack instead of an assessment after it, an inquest has heard.

The hearing into the deaths of 30 British holidaymakers in the resort in Tunisia in June 2015 heard that TUI did not carry out frequent security risk assessments on resorts or hotels before the atrocity.

The inquest at the Royal Courts of Justice in London heard that TUI appointed security consultancy company Covenant to carry out an audit in the resort in July, excluding the five-star Riu Imperial Marhaba hotel where the attack had just taken place.

Blackpool couple Denis and Elaine Thwaite were among those killed in the atrocity.

In a witness statement, Jacque Reynolds, a director of risk and compliance for TUI, based in the UK, said: “TUI did not carry out regular security risk assessments of resorts or hotels prior to the Sousse attack. The only security reviews (of hotels) that had been commissioned before then were in Egypt.”

Covenant’s briefing note after its audit said that staff’s understanding was considered to be “weak”, and a section with the heading “Emergency plans and procedures” said: “The current level of emergency planning and the associated procedures such as evacuation and invacuation need to be enhanced to meet the challenges of the evolving security situation.

“A best guess at this is simply not good enough. This is something that should be designed by security specialists alongside the hotel management because they will need to understand the plans and procedures and also communicate them to their staff together.”

The briefing note in July came soon after the Sousse attack and three months after another terror attack at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis.

Andrew Ritchie QC, counsel for the families of the victims, put it to Ms Reynolds that, had TUI instigated the security audit after the Bardo attack, the company had 11 weeks to make changes, and “might have saved quite a few lives by having those things in place”.

He also said to the witness: “I put it to you that TUI should have audited security on paper or by sending an expert adviser when the FCO (Foreign Office) advised there was a high risk of terror activity after Bardo. Would you agree with that?”

She said she did not agree, adding: “We were told on numerous occasions that the advice wouldn’t be changing.”

Extremist Seifeddine Rezgui massacred 38 tourists - including three Irish citizens - on June 26 at the Riu Imperial Marhaba hotel.

Earlier, families of those killed received an apology after they had to sit through “distressing” inquest evidence with no prior warning.