Tunisia inquests: Tui destination manager feared ‘hotel scenario’

Ben Ireland reports from the Royal Courts of Justice in London

Tui’s “eyes and ears” on the ground in Sousse flagged that a “hotel scenario” was the most likely terror threat in the country prior to the massacre of 38 tourists.

Paul Summerell, area manager for Tui Destination Services in Tunisia, emailed head office to warn them of his fears, an inquest into the attack heard.

His email, shown to the court, read: “In our opinion a hotel scenario in Sousse would be the most realistic scenario in Tunisia, but I leave that up to you.”

Summerell agreed with Andrew Ritchie QC, representing 18 families of victims in the inquest, that he as area manager and responsible for looking after the reps in the resort was Tui’s “eyes and ears on the ground”.

He had also raised a failed suicide bombing in Sousse in October 2013 and said he based some of his information on conversations with the UK’s “influential” Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

In the wake of the terror attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis – three months prior to the Sousse massacre which led to the death of 38 tourists, including 30 Britons – Summerell said he had noticed an increased police presence in Sousse.

He added: “I noticed more check points, and there were more guns at these check points. Some of the guns were quite big.”

Training was offered to reps, but only on how to react to an attack, not to prevent one, he added.

Summerell also added that it was “the Tunisian way” that all decisions on security had to be made through consultation with the country’s authorities, rather than directly with the hotels.

He added that the owners of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel “didn’t see our [Tui’s] function as being entitled to make security checks”.

This followed evidence previously heard in the inquest that the British government had demanded that hotels ramp up their own security following the Bardo attack.

Summerell said he had previously requested walkie-talkies for security staff – “for a different reason” – but was told by Tunisian authorities that he could not have them.

Mr Ritchie listed a number of allegations made against the hotel and asked Summerell whether they would have caused concern had they been reported to him, which they were not.

They included only having one guard to cover the two beach gates, the hotel not following up on its actions from a meeting where it was asked to beef up security, there being no CCTV control room, no lockdown procedure, no walkie-talkies.

Summerell said that, had he been made aware, he would have reported all of those things.

Mr Ritchie also asked: “Nobody from above [within the Tui management structure] raised the security of the hotels where you were sending Brits?” Sumemrell replied: “That’s correct.”

See also:

Imperial Marhaba ‘had six working CCTV cameras’

Authorities had plans for new tourist police squadron prior to attack

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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