Tunisia massacre: Survivors and families suing UK's largest tour operator Tui

Simon Calder

Survivors of the 26 June 2015 terror attack in Tunisia, as well as families whose relatives died in the massacre, are suing the holiday company.

Thirty British customers of Tui, the UK’s largest tour operator, were murdered at the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Sousse. The attack was the worst on British citizens since the bombings in London on 7 July 2005.

It was carried out by a lone gunman named Seifeddine Rezgui, who was eventually shot by police.

The law firm Irwin Mitchell has been instructed by the families of 22 people who died in the attack as well as more than 50 people who suffered injuries.

“Many are still suffering from psychological injuries after witnessing the horrific attack, with some having comforted family members fatally wounded," said the firm.

“The legal case centres on security at the hotel; what was known about previous attacks in Tunisia and the lack of information presented to customers both at the time of booking and when the situation may have changed regarding travel advice.”

Three months earlier, 20 tourists had died in a terror attack on the country’s leading cultural collection, the Bardo Museum in Tunis. At the time of the Sousse attack, the Foreign Office travel advice warned of a “high threat from terrorism” in Tunisia.

“Neither Tui’s 2015 written brochure or their 2015 website informed them of the content of the FCO travel advice before they booked their holidays,” said the law firm.

The legal action follows a seven-week inquest in 2017, in which evidence emerged about a poor security regime at the hotel, as well as the slow response of the authorities.

The victims’ families also heard how Tui had played down the Bardo Museum massacre, giving call-centre staff and travel agents a two-page document containing responses intended to calm customers’ concerns and avoid cancellations.

Kylie Hutchison, senior associate solicitor for Irwin Mitchell, said Tui “did not audit the adequacy of security at the hotel or take appropriate precautions to keep our clients safe from an attack”.

“Nor did they inform our clients of the level of threat of terrorism which many of the holidaymakers say would have changed their mind about holidaying in Tunisia at the time.”

One of the victims is Mat James, 33, from Pontypridd, who was shot multiple times while protecting his girlfriend during the attack. He said: “The horrible attack was obviously life-changing for so many people. Even now, a few years on my injuries are still affecting me.

“We can never forget what happened and I’m lucky to be alive, but hopefully by taking legal action everyone involved can get the help and support we need to aid our recoveries as much as possible.”

A spokesperson for Tui UK told The Independent: “We remain truly saddened by what happened on that fateful day in Sousse in June 2015 when 30 of our customers lost their lives in a terrorist attack which started on a public beach.

“Our thoughts remain with all of those who were affected by the horrific incident.

“As this is now subject to legal proceedings it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage except to say we will fully cooperate with the judicial process.”

The Foreign Office placed Tunisia on the “no-go” list shortly after the attack, meaning UK tour operators could not offer holidays there, but relaxed the travel ban in July 2017.

The current FCO travel advice says: “The Tunisian government has improved protective security in major cities and tourist resorts.

“But terrorists are still very likely to try to carry out attacks in Tunisia, including against UK and Western interests.”

Both Tui and its rival, Thomas Cook, now offer holidays in Tunisia once again.

This year 105,000 British holidaymakers are expected to visit Tunisia. Before the attack in 2015, the annual number was expected to top half-a-million for the first time.

The legal case will be held at the High Court in London.