Ben Ireland reports from the Royal Courts of Justice
The assistant manager of a Thomson store has denied telling a family that Tunisia was “100% safe” before they booked a holiday to the country where 38 people were shot dead.
Giving evidence at the inquests into 30 Britons who were shot dead in Sousse, Paul Thompson insisted that he and his wife Zoe had raised concerns when speaking to staff at the Ilkeston store.
He claims that they were told that Tunisia was “100% safe” before they booked and that the same phrase was used by resort staff on arrival.
They had been at the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Sousse for one full day when lone gunman Seifeddine Rezgui opened fire with a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
Giving evidence in week four of the inquest at London’s Royal Courts of Justice, Thompson said the family had already booked a holiday to the Greek island of Rhodes but decided to change for family reasons.
Thompson said they were told they could swap their holiday to Tunisia or Egypt for the same price.
He said his wife had brought up the terrorist attack in at the Bardo museum in Tunis during meetings at the agency.
Thompson said: “They said it was 100% safe. One of the travel agents there said ‘if something happened in London it wouldn’t stop you going to Skegness’.
“They said (Thomson parent company) Tui wouldn’t let us go there if there were any concerns about safety.
“They said there was no issue, that it was a one-off incident like the 7/7 bombings.”
He said staff had advised the family to check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s travel advice ahead of booking, but was not told about the specific sub-section on terrorism. He said if he had been referred to that page of the FCO advice he would not have booked the holiday.
Giving evidence after Thompson, the Ilkeston store assistant manager Amy Smallman said she and her colleagues would “never” give such a guarantee.
When asked by Samantha Leek QC if she had told anybody Tunisia was 100% safe, Smallman replied: “No. That’s not something I would say.”
“I always advise people to follow FCO advice. I would never give safety promises. Nowhere is 100% safe. I wouldn’t have said that.”
She also said that if she had been asked specifically about safety it would have been included in her notes on the family’s booking log.
“I make very thorough notes,” she added.
The inquests continue.
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