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Families OFTUNISIA attack victims to sue travel firm.

Byline: Keiran Southern and Craig Thompson Reporter keiran.southern@trinitymirror.com

THE family of a Gateshead grandmother killed in the Tunisian beach attack is among those planning to sue a holiday firm for allegedly "hiding" Government advice about the country's terror threat.

Islamic terrorist Seifeddine Yacoubi slaughtered innocent holidaymakers in the beach resort of Sousse last June, killing 38 people, including 30 Brits, in a lone wolf attack.

At a pre-inquest hearing on Tuesday, the barrister representing more than half of the families who lost loved ones said there would be action against Thomson Holidays, the holiday firm who sold the breaks despite a heightened terror threat.

Whickham gran Lisa Burbidge was one of those murdered.

The 66-year-old was enjoying a family holiday when she was killed on the tenth anniversary of her husband's death.

Solicitors Irwin Mitchell con-firmed the Burbidge family were among those being represented by the firm.

Andrew Ritchie QC, appearing for 16 of the families, told the hearing: "This is an inquest where there are likely to be civil claims by the families against Thomson."

The inquest will look at the security in place at Sousse beach and the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel at the time of the attack on June 26 and what changes were made after 24 people were killed in a terrorist attack at the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March.

It will also explore whether Yacoubi was acting alone or in tandem with another killer; the emergency response on the day; and the travel advice offered by the Foreign Office (FCO) and travel agents.

The judge is also set to call evidence on what the government, the travel companies and the hotel knew about the risk of an attack on Sousse and what was done about it.

As he argued the inquest should look at the policies of Thomson, Mr Ritchie said: "The families are deeply troubled by the practice of encouraging men and women in the UK to travel to Tunisia without putting in brochures, online or on booking forms any of the FCO warnings.

"Certainly by Bardo the advice was there was a 'high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including places visiting by foreigners' and yet it was completely omitted from brochures, online and booking forms.

"The families are deeply concerned that Thomson were practising, in effect, a hiding, a keeping out of the limelight practice to induce families to take these holidays."

Mr Ritchie said the travel firm stood accused of a "three-limbed practice": "One, don't tell them. Two, sell them insurance that doesn't cover cancellation if they find out. Three, don't give them their money back."

Howard Stevens QC, for Thomson's parent company TUI, said what the travel agent "did or did not do" was a "contentious area, and one that would be disputed".

Justice Nicholas Loraine-Smith QC, who will hear the full inquest next January, said each victim would be given due respect, with their families submitting pen portraits of their lost loved ones.

The judge said: "Although we talk in terms of '30 British nationals' we must never forget they are individuals and I will deal with them like that, followed by the evidence that lead up to their deaths."

Law firm Irwin Mitchell said it was hoped the inquest would provide answers. Clive Garner, head of the firm's international personal injury department, said: "There are serious concerns about what appears to be an escalating threat of terrorist activity in Tunisia prior to the events in Sousse.

"The coroner will consider matters including the adequacy of travel advice given to the victims prior to them travelling to Sousse.

"We have also asked the coroner to consider the security in place at Sousse beach and at the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel."

After the inquest hearing, parliament's foreign affairs committee heard that budget and staff cuts at the Foreign Office "complicated" the UK's response to the Sousse terror attack.

Committee chair Crispin Blunt said that cuts imposed since 2010 have resulted in posts being left unfilled, overseas posts at junior level being scrapped and UKbased overseas staff being left stuck in the "diplomatic bubble".

The coroner will consider matters including the adequacy of travel adviceClive Garner

CAPTION(S):

The funeral of Gateshead grandmother Lisa Burbidge shot dead

Andy Commins

Lisa Burbidge was among the 38 people killed in the Sousse attack

Andy Commins
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:6TUNI
Date:Mar 3, 2016
Words:729
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