A judge offered his condolences to the victims of the Friday 13 massacre in Paris as he vowed to conduct a ‘full, fair and fearless’ inquest into the deaths of British tourists gunned down on a Tunisian beach.
Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith opened the pre-inquest hearing into the deaths of 30 Britons – including Denis and Elaine Thwaites from Blackpool – shot dead sunbathing at the Sousse resort on June 26.
I could not begin this hearing without mentioning the events in Paris
Gunman Seifeddine Rezgui killed 38 victims with an AK47 assault rifle at the Hotel Rui in Belleview Park before being shot by police.
The hearing at the High Court is the first of several which will set out the scope and limits of the investigation. Judge Loraine-Smith told the relatives of the victims: “I understand many people in this room are here because you lost loved ones and others may have chosen not to attend. Doubtless you wish never to have been in this situation and I am adamant that loved ones and their families will be at the heart of the investigation.
“I could not begin this hearing without mentioning the events in Paris.
“Our thoughts are with those who have been bereaved because of those terrorist attacks, nobody better than you will understand what the families of those killed must be going through.” Investigations into the massacre are ongoing in Tunisia and the full inquest hearing cannot begin until information is disclosed by the local authorities in December.
The Metropolitan Police has taken more than 600 witness statements and contacted around 2,000 witnesses or family members who were in Sousse at the time.
Mobile phone footage is being reviewed and work has begun on creating a full 3D model of the resort.
Judge Loraine-Smith added: ‘In the weeks and months ahead, there will be a great deal of work.
“I am acutely conscious many of you will want this inquest to take place promptly and I share that wish.
“I am also determined that the investigations or inquests are not rushed.
“I will conduct a full, fair and fearless investigation into their deaths.”
Although the proceedings are at an early stage the judge set out the preliminary scope of what is to be considered when the final hearing takes place.
It will look at the background of the dead, the background of the gunman and events on the day.
The hearing was adjourned until January 21 next year.