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The families of British holidaymakers killed when a terrorist opened fire at a beach resort in Tunisia last year are to sue Thomson Holidays for failing to highlight travel warnings.
Relatives of 16 of the 30 Britons who died at Sousse have accused Tui Group, which owns Thomson, of “practically hiding” advice issued about the terrorist threat after the Bardo Museum in Tunis was attacked three months earlier.
Travel agents encouraged customers with discounts, sold travel insurance that excluded cancellation and then discouraged cancellation, the families claimed at a pre-inquest hearing at the High Court in London.
Andrew Ritchie, QC, representing the families, accused the company at a pre-inquest hearing of a “three-limbed” approach.
He alleged that included “practically hiding and keeping out of the limelight” Foreign and Commonwealth Office warnings about terrorism in Tunisia; selling customers travel insurance that excluded cancellation cover caused by terrorism risks; and, before the Sousse attacks, discouraging cancellation by penalising customers up to the full cost of their booked holidays if they chose to cancel as a result of learning of terrorist activities or risks.
He described this as: “Don’t tell them the facts, sell them insurance that doesn’t cover cancellation and then don’t give them their money back”.
Howard Stevens QC, on behalf of Tui, told the hearing that the allegations fell into a “contentious area” and were disputed.
The families submitted documents showing that Thomson was offering a 40% discount to travel to Tunisia seven months after the massacre.
Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith, the coroner, said that the full inquest would question what Thomson, other travel companies and the government knew about the security risk the region faced at the time and also question whether another gunman was involved.
He said the inquest would also take in the preparations by the gunman and potentially others behind the hotel shootings, the emergency response by the authorities and the hotel, forensic evidence and the adequacy of advice from the FCO and travel companies.
Suzanne Richards, from Wednesbury in the West Midlands, who lost her son, brother and father in the Sousse attack, reportedly said: “We were left distraught and heartbroken following the tragic events in Tunisia and I think it is likely we will never fully come to terms with what happened.
“We just hope the inquest process can shed some light on exactly what happened so that my family and all the grieving families can begin to understand how their loved ones died and whether more could have been done to protect them.
“Nothing can turn back the clock but it is important to us to find out if any lessons can be learned to try to prevent similar heartbreaking devastation in future.”
Yesterday’s hearing was the second pre-inquest review, with two more scheduled before the full inquest.
The date for the full inquest is scheduled for January 26 next year.
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