Verdict due on Tunisia terror victims' deaths, including Felixstowe man Philip Heathcote
PUBLISHED: 06:48 28 February 2017 | UPDATED: 06:48 28 February 2017
Families of the Britons killed in the Tunisia terror attacks are expected to gather today in a final search for answers.
Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith is due to deliver his inquest conclusions over the slaughter of 38 people by Seifeddine Rezgui in Sousse on June 26, 2015.
Among the 30 British victims was Philip Heathcote, 52, from Felixstowe, who had been celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary with wife Allison, then 48, when he was shot dead as they lay relaxing on sunbeds.
Mrs Heathcote told the inquest that, after being shot five times herself, she “played dead” next to her dead or dying husband to avoid being shot again.
The inquest into the massacre at the five-star Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel began at the Royal Courts of Justice on January 16 and is expected to conclude before the end of the day.
Andrew Ritchie QC, counsel to the families of the victims, said last week that Judge Loraine-Smith, who is sitting as coroner, should consider a “neglect” conclusion, arguing that there had been “gross neglect” on the part of the TUI travel company.
Samantha Leek QC, counsel to the inquest, did not agree with the suggestion for the coroner to return a “neglect” conclusion, and the coroner himself indicated that he would not accept the neglect submission.
In deciding whether to give a “neglect” verdict, Judge Loraine-Smith will consider whether the victims were in a position of dependency, if there was gross neglect, and if that gross neglect contributed to the deaths.
Howard Stevens QC, counsel for TUI, dismissed Mr Ritchie’s call for the coroner to consider a “neglect” conclusion, saying that “matters could have been worse” during the terror attack.
In March 2015, 24 people were killed in a terror attack at Bardo National Museum in the capital, Tunis, and some of the families of those caught in the Sousse attack said they had been assured by the travel company that it was safe to travel to Tunisia after the Bardo attack.
Paul Thompson said his wife Zoe mentioned the Bardo attack to the travel agent, and said they were told it was a “one-off” and the place was “100% safe”.
A Thomson travel agent told the inquest she did not give a safety guarantee to the couple, and that she would not say somewhere is completely safe.