Tunisia terrorist massacre beach a deserted wasteland one year on as victims’ families call for forgiveness

On a lovely June day under clear blue skies, a Discount Holidays © holiday beach lies eerily deserted in front of an empty hotel. No one comes here now. Not after what happened here1 a year ago on Sunday. Then these sands were awash with blood as 30 British tourists were among 38 victims wiped out by an Islamic State2 gunman.

Seifeddine Rezgui s 25-minute killing spree outside the luxury Imperial Marhaba hotel in the Tunisian resort of Sousse has all but destroyed this land s once thriving tourism trade. The hotel is closed. The parasols and sun loungers that were scattered with bodies that day are no longer in place. Entrances to the beach are padlocked. The resort beyond is a ghost town.

A year on, the terror threat in Sousse remains high, with the Foreign Office3 advising against all but essential travel to Tunisia. Yet victims families have urged people to forgive and praised the bravery of local beach workers who risked their lives to save holidaymakers. They formed a human chain across the beach to stop graduate Rezgui, 23, killing other tourists.

Cheryl Stollery lost her husband, social worker John, 58, in the massacre. She said: Precious lives were taken from us without any real understanding of why it happened, except through a mindless act of terrorism.

But we should not forget those who put themselves in danger to help others.

Sunday Mirror Tunisia Terrorist Massacre Beach A Deserted Wasteland One Year On As Victims' Families Call For Forgiveness Port El Kantoui, a popular tourist location is deserted Getty Images Tunisia Terrorist Massacre Beach A Deserted Wasteland One Year On As Victims' Families Call For Forgiveness Ambulances at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel in the resort town of Sousse

Cheryl, of Nottingham, added: Their courage and acts of selflessness give us hope that good can prevail through acts of kindness, outweighing political, religious and cultural barriers. Suzanne Richards, the mother of murdered teenager Joel, 19, of Wednesbury in the Midlands, is hoping the massacre inquests delayed until next year can shed light on what happened.

Her family also lost Joel s uncle Adrian Evans, 44, and grandad Patrick, 78, that day. Joel s brother Owen, 16, survived. Suzanne told the Sunday People:4 We will never come to terms with it. We just hope the inquest process can help all the grieving families begin to understand how their loved ones died and whether more could have been done to protect them.

In a statement on the first anniversary of the atrocity, the family of victim Lisa Burbidge, 66, from Gateshead, said: Lisa was a loving mam, sister, daughter and grandmother.

These last 12 months have been incredibly difficult for us. Her death has left a gaping hole in our lives. Meanwhile, lawyers for victims families and injured survivors are pressing on with a civil claim against tour operator TUI.

Getty Images Tunisia Terrorist Massacre Beach A Deserted Wasteland One Year On As Victims' Families Call For Forgiveness The beach at Sousse was popular and busy until 12 months ago Sky News Tunisia Terrorist Massacre Beach A Deserted Wasteland One Year On As Victims' Families Call For Forgiveness Beach vendors Jihed Hassen and Sahbi Mougou, who formed a line against the terrorist,

They allege the firm failed to properly warn holidaymakers of the risk posed by terrorists in the country. Clive Garner, head of international personal injury at Irwin Mitchell, said: The families we represent rightly want to know whether more could have been done to prevent the terrible loss of life.

The massacre was the largest terror attack on Britons since the July 7 bombings in 2005 which killed 52 in London. Killer Rezgui had trained at the same Libya terror camp as Jihadi John – British IS butcher Mohammed Emwazi. His actions last June have also changed the lives of locals dependent on tourism.

Tunisia Terrorist Massacre Beach A Deserted Wasteland One Year On As Victims' Families Call For Forgiveness Tunisia gunman Seifeddine Yacoubi on the beach

The band of beach workers nicknamed the Angels of Sousse for protecting Brit tourists claim they ve been abandoned. A fund was setup in the UK for brave Tunisians who helped victims, but the cash went to hotel staff from the Imperial Marhaba and neighbouring Riu Bellevue, who were affiliated with TUI.

The beach workers got nothing. Now the forgotten heroes of Sousse are begging British tourists to return.

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Jihed Hassen, 34, who has driven boats at the Marhaba for 16 years and was in the human chain believed to have saved around 70 lives, said: We are suffering.

Where are the British? We did our best. When the English don t come here, they are letting the terrorists win. Tunisia is safe, there is security everywhere.

Sahbi Mougou, 58, who has offered watersports on Sousse beach since 1996, led the tourists to safety. Now his business is in tatters, with the Imperial Marhaba set to be closed until next year at the earliest.

Sunday Mirror Tunisia Terrorist Massacre Beach A Deserted Wasteland One Year On As Victims' Families Call For Forgiveness Empty restaurants at Port El Kantoui

He said: There are still police all over the beach, it s too much. Tunisians are not terrorists. Just one man, who was crazy. I hate him now.

One thing missing from the desolate beach which has caused anger among ex-pats is a memorial plaque which has been torn down. It said it was dedicated to all guests who lost their lives in the terrorist attack at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel on June 26, 2015. Ex-pat Laura Sanderson, 32, from Woking, said: It s a disgrace.

Tearing down that sign won t banish the memory of what happened here.

“I know people who were sat there and saw their friends killed. I know Discount Holidays © holiday reps who recommended the Imperial Marhaba to customers. Earlier this year, David Cameron5 announced a permanent tribute would be created. Bereaved families were consulted, but an official decision on its location yet to be made public.

My mum and dad were tragically ripped from us says bride

Irwin Mitchell Tunisia Terrorist Massacre Beach A Deserted Wasteland One Year On As Victims' Families Call For Forgiveness Denis and Elaine Thwaites at the wedding of their daughter Lindsey and Daniel Clifford

Proud parents Denis and Elaine Thwaites died on Sousse beach just months after this happy snap at daughter Lindsey s wedding. She flew out to Tunisia to frantically search for them after they failed to get in touch following the massacre. Former Birmingham City player Denis, 70, and Elaine, 69, had been enjoying a Discount Holidays © holiday there when gunman Rezgui struck. Lindsey says she and husband Daniel, of Blackpool, have endured a harrowing 12 months since.

My mum and dad were tragically ripped from us, she said.

We constantly ask why them? But there are no answers. They were beautiful, kind people. They were my rocks. The family is among 17 represented by law firm Irwin Mitchell. They claim travel giant TUI Group6 ignored security warnings and put the victims at risk through unhappy and unfair practices.

They allege the tour operator failed to pass on Foreign Office warnings to customers about unstable security in the North African country following an earlier terror attack. TUI is also accused of cutting prices to encourage bookings. The allegations are outlined in legal papers submitted to the Tunisia inquests which have been delayed until next year. TUI s lawyers have rejected claims about the company s pricing strategies and that it was obliged to share FCO travel advice.

Courage of pregnant doctor sent to victim s aid amid gunfire

Sunday Mirror Tunisia Terrorist Massacre Beach A Deserted Wasteland One Year On As Victims' Families Call For Forgiveness Dr Majdi Omri and wife Dr Hajer Kraiem

A medic in charge of the Sousse massacre rescue mission has told how he had to send his pregnant doctor wife into the fray to save a wounded victim. Dr Majdi Omri needed Dr Hajer Kraiem to help Brit Gina Van Dort, 30, from Watford, who was spotted clinging to her husband s lifeless body. She had wounds to her face. He said: It was terrifying sending in your wife when she is pregnant. You fear for the baby, but she s a very experienced doctor.

At that moment I didn t know if there were any other terrorists still there, or if there was going to be an explosion.

It was frightening.

When we arrived at the front of the hotel the terrorist was not yet dead. We could hear the guns of police.

We had to act. And all the victims were in different places. Dr Kraiem, 34, who gave birth to her second son Malek six months after the attack, said: There were victims everywhere. They were in the front garden and the hotel reception.

I went to treat Gina. Her face was badly injured and her husband Chris had not survived. She was holding her husband and she wouldn t let him go.

We took her to get medical care.

There were 20 victims on the beach. They were everywhere, in the pool, in the garden, in reception. There was so much blood.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, a specialist unit of psychologists was drafted in to help survivors deal with what they had witnessed.

Dr Kraiem said: I m proud of what I did that day.

I m happy for the survivors but I m sorry they endured this attack.

I m also sorry for those who lost their loved ones in front of their eyes.

References

  1. ^ what happened here (www.mirror.co.uk)
  2. ^ Islamic State (www.mirror.co.uk)
  3. ^ Foreign Office (www.mirror.co.uk)
  4. ^ Sunday People: (www.mirror.co.uk)
  5. ^ David Cameron (www.mirror.co.uk)
  6. ^ TUI Group (www.mirror.co.uk)

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