Sunday 30 April 2017

Revelations Tunisia police 'stalled' on way to stop beach terror gunman who killed three Irish 'horrendous'

Larry and Martina Hayes, of Athlone, Co Westmeath. Photo credit: Family handout/Irish Independent/PA Wire
Larry and Martina Hayes, of Athlone, Co Westmeath. Photo credit: Family handout/Irish Independent/PA Wire

Gavin White and Dean Grey Dublin and London

Revelations from an inquest into the Tunisian terrorist attacks in 2015 that killed three Irish citizens were "horrendous", according to a friend of one of the victims.

Evidence from the inquest shows that police deliberately delayed their arrival on the scene of the terrorist attack in Sousse.

Three Irish citizens were killed in the June 2015 attack when extremist Seifeddine Rezgui Yacoubi launched a deadly assault on a popular beach resort.

The UK hearing into the deaths of 38 tourists heard that a local investigation into the slaughter criticised some police for stalling as they made their way to the five-star Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel.

Lorna Carty, from Co Meath.
Lorna Carty, from Co Meath.

Amongst the people killed in Sousse was Lorna Carty from Co Meath.

"It is horrendous and it's terrible to think that more lives could have been saved," said Fine Gael Senator Ray Butler, who knows Ms Carty's family.

"I'm sure the revelations won't help the family, who are very private people. I spoke to Lorna's husband at the time and he was just devastated."

Mr Butler said he would help "push for the family" if they wanted a similar inquest to take place in Ireland.

"I'd like to see what the families would think of an Irish inquest and I would have no problem pushing for the family if they wanted one.

"I would be totally behind them," he said.

Athlone couple Larry and Martina Hayes were also killed in the deadly attack and Athlone Parish Priest Fr Liam Devine said the revelations were "another twist" in the tragedy.

"The news will only further add to all the grief felt by the family," he said.

"It is still very raw and I remember talking to a brother of the family at the time and they were just devastated so this will not help matters now."

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Irish Embassy in Madrid, which is responsible for Tunisia, had been involved in providing active and ongoing assistance and support to the families of the three Irish citizens who lost their lives in the attack.

The inquest heard that a local investigation into the attack criticised police for stalling as they made their way to the hotel.

Rezgui "systematically" gunned down the innocent tourists on the hotel's beach before going into the grounds and the building and killing more, the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London was told.

CCTV footage played to the packed courtroom, full of relatives of those who died, showed the killer as he approached the hotel with his gun hidden under a parasol.

More graphic scenes showed him enter the building and shoot at least one tourist.

Samantha Leek QC, counsel to the inquest, said a report by Tunisian Judge Akremi had identified failings by local units which could have ended the slaughter before more police arrived and shot Rezgui dead.

She said the inquest would hear evidence from that report citing an unnamed interior minister as saying some Tunisian security officers nearby had consciously slowed down their arrival.

"He said the units that should have intervened in the events deliberately and unjustifiably slowed down to delay their arrival at the hotel," Ms Leek said.

"They had the ability to put an end to the attack before the police arrived but wasted a considerable amount of time in getting to the hotel."

Footage shown to the inquest included the shooting of 72-year-old grandfather Bruce Wilkinson, from Goole, East Yorkshire.

A woman, believed to be a family member, left the room before it was shown.

Ms Leek said that on June 26, 2015, Rezgui "entered the hotel from the beach, carrying an automatic weapon and a number of explosives".

"He systematically took the lives of 38 people who had travelled to Tunisia for enjoyment, luxury and relaxation," she said.

An armed guard on the beach opened fire on Rezgui, but fell to the ground "seemingly unconscious" after the gunman threw a grenade at him, she added.

This led to a local speedboat driver, named as AI, picking his gun up and attempting to confront Rezgui. However, he was unable to work the weapon.

She said Rezgui was thought to have acted alone on the beach - albeit with an accomplice in a van nearby - and AI brandishing the gun may have sparked reports at the time of a second gunman involved in the shooting.

The hearing, scheduled to last for seven weeks, will also examine security in place at the hotel by tour firm TUI and the travel advice issued for Tunisia by the UK government.

The Sousse atrocity came months after a terror attack at the Bardo National Museum in the capital, Tunis, in March 2015 in which 24 people were killed.

Irish Independent

Promoted articles

Editors Choice

Also in World News