British coroner condemns "cowardly" Tunisian police

Three Irish people were among the 38 tourists murdered at the Sousse beach resort in Tunisia in June 2015

A British coroner has accused the Tunisian security forces of being "at best shambolic, and at worst cowardly" in their response to a terror attack nearly two years ago.

Three Irish people were among the 38 tourists murdered at the Sousse beach resort in Tunisia in June 2015.

Gunman, Seifeddine Rezgui walked approximately three kilometres during the killing spree before being shot dead by police.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

A UK inquiry today found that the deaths of the 30 British victims at the five-star Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel were the result of “unlawful killing.”

The British victims had booked their trips through Thomson Holidays, which is owned by the TUI Group.

Summing up after the six week inquest, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith rejected calls from the victims' lawyers to issue a finding of neglect against the travel firms and hotels.

He said local police were responsible for security and "their response could and should have been effective."

He said one unit that stopped to pick up extra weapons instead of heading straight for the scene already “had everything they required to confront the gunman” adding that the delay was deliberate and unjustifiable.”

Flowers laid on the beach near the RIU Imperial Marhaba hotel in Sousse, Tunisia, 30-06-2015. Image: Steve Parsons PA Archive/PA Images

Under British law, a coroner's inquest establishes the facts of an incident but does not assign legal blame or guilt.

Responding to today’s conclusion, lawyers representing families of 22 of the victims said they will now begin civil proceedings against the travel agent.

A statement by Andrew Richie QC stressed that the coroner was not empowered to give a verdict over anybody's negligence.

The statement said the coroner had found "appreciable security deficiencies" at the hotel adding that the inquest found the travel agent "did no audit on whether the hotel had any security against terrorist attacks."

Kylie Hutchison, another lawyer representing the families said the inquest had heard "shocking evidence about the level of security precautions" at the hotel.

"The level of terrorist threat in Tunisia had been escalating for some time prior to June 2015," she told reporters in a statement outside the court.

"This includes the failed suicide bomb attack at a beach in Sousse. Then, following the terrifying events at the Bardo Museum in March 2015, the Tunisian Minister of Tourism issued a letter requiring all hotels to improve security measures.

"Tragically these steps were not implemented at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel," she said, adding that TUI had said it was "unaware" of the letter.

Three Irish people, Lorna Carty a mother of two from Robinstown, County Meath and husband and wife Martina and Laurence Hayes, both in their 50s from Westlodge in Athlone, lost their lives in the massacre.

Additional reporting from IRN ...