Tunisia inquests: Authorities had plans for new tourist police squadron prior to attack

Tunisia inquests: Authorities had plans for new tourist police squadron prior to attack

Ben Ireland reports from the Royal Courts of Justice

Tunisian authorities had plans to introduce 400 new tourist police to patrol beaches and guard hotels, the inquests into 30 Britons massacred in Sousse has heard.

Plans for the new squadron were announced in a meeting on May 25, a month before lone gunman Seifeddine Rezgui shot dead 38 people.

The attack came three months after 22 tourists were killed in an attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis.

Venando Lorente Lopez, managing director at Tunisie Voyages – a subsidiary of Tui that operated excursions in the North Africa Country, was flown in to give evidence at the inquest on Wednesday.

Lopez, who is also head of Tunisia destination services for Tui, attended the meeting between Tui staff and Tunisian authorities when the security improvements were announced.

He told the coroner: “I don’t know if, at that moment, they [the police] were active. They have to train.”

Minutes from the meeting, shown to the inquest, revealed other security plans at hotels in Tunisian resorts included “+guards” and “+CCTV” and Lopez said discussions suggested the use of metal detectors at hotels and checks on all people entering properties, including goods deliveries.

Following an earlier meeting in response to the attack at the Bardo museum, Lopez said security had been ramped up on excursions.

He said he would routinely inform police of when and where trips were going and how many tourists were on board coaches. He added that his firm, known as TV, invested in secondary vehicles to drive ahead of its coaches to make sure roads were clear and secure.

Lopez also added that it was the responsibility of the Tunisian Ministry of Interior, rather than hotels, to manage what he described as “active security” while hotels were responsible for “passive security”, which included health and safety.

A “cadre” – or official – was to be told to pass information on to prominent tour operators in Tunisia, such as Tui and Thomas Cook.

In his statement, Lopez said he believed security guards in Tunisia were not allowed to be armed.

The inquest had already heard that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office sent security experts on a ‘recce’ to Tunisia to check out the security of nine beachfront hotels in Sousse and Port El Kantaoui between January and March 2015.

The report found that: “Despite some good security infrastructure around the hotel and resorts there seems to be little in the way of effective security to prevent or respond to an attack.”

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FCO stance queried by Tui legal chief

Operators ‘carried out no security assessments’

Foreign Office called for increased security measures

Bargain prices hailed as ‘great success’ before attack

Footage of holidaymakers fleeing gunman shown to court

Inquests begin at Royal Courts of Justice

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