27 Jun 2015

Tunisia shootings: ‘Fifteen Britons dead and total may rise’

Relatives of British holidaymakers still await news of their loved ones 24 hours after the shootings, as David Cameron warns the public must prepare for news that many of the victims were from the UK

  • David Cameron has warned the British public they must ‘be prepared’ for the news that many of those murdered on the Tunisian beach were British nationals as he condemned the ‘savage’ attack.
  • 15 British people are confirmed dead and government warns total may rise
  • At least five Brits are among the 38 people who died in the attacks
  • Relatives in Britain have still not heard news about the fate of their loved ones
  • British eye witness, a former policeman, says it was a ‘click of a finger’ between life and death

Elaine and Denis Thwaites, the British couple who are believed to be in hospital in Tunisia

17.36: Son-in-law of missing couple believes they are in hospital

Danny Clifford, the son-in-law, Denis and Elaine Thwaites, from Blackpool, Lancashire, aged 70 and 69, has just said the family had heard from Tunisia that the couple were being treated in hospital.

Mr Clifford said: “We’re not 100% certain but we believe they are injured in hospital. We’ve not had contact from the Foreign Office.

“We don’t know which hospital or the extent of their injuries but it’s the best news we’ve had all day.”

Tunisian police patrol the beach in Sousse

17.05: Fifteen Britons dead in beach shooting and total may rise

Fifteen Britons have died in the Tunisian beach massacre but the toll “may well rise”, Foreign Minister Tobias Ellwood said, adding that it was “the most significant terrorist attack on the British people” since July 7, 2005.

He added: “This is the most significant terrorist attack on British people since 7/7 and highlights the ongoing threat of Isil.”

16.50: ‘Grave concerns’ about two more Irish citizens

Warning further Irish casualties could not be ruled out, Charlie Flanagan, Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister, said authorities are in contact with the families of the two citizens who are still missing.

“In addition to the fatality made known yesterday, I can confirm that there is grave concern for two other Irish citizens who had been at the scene of the attacks at Sousse, Tunisia,” he said.

16.03: Blackpool family appeal for information on retired couple

Denis and Elaine Thwaites from Blackpool were also staying at the RIU Imperial Marhaba. The couple, aged 70 and 69, arrived on Wednesday.

15.21: Grandson pleas for news of missing man

Daniel Welch, 29, from Swindon says that his family can ‘only expect the worst’ after hearing no news from his grandfather John Welch, 74 and his partner Eileen Swannack, 70.

He said that the couple called on Thursday to tell them they were having a ‘great time’ at the RIU Imperial Marhaba, a place that they ‘adore’. They have visited the same hotel twice a year for the past eight years.

However they have made no contact since the attacks.

He added: “You know that we’re going to get some sort of news at some point, whether it be today, tomorrow or the next day, and you know it’s probably not going to be great, because they haven’t been able to make contact themselves by now.

“But it’s just that not knowing,” he said, adding: “Upon that you then start thinking ‘Why that resort? Why the holidaymakers? Why this place? What was the reasons?’ You get all sorts of things running through your mind.”

Towels lie on the Tunisian beach near to where dozens of tourists were shot dead.

Sunbeds lie on their side on the beach where tourists were attacked by a gunman with a kalashnikov

15.07: Former policeman says it was a ‘click of a finger’ between life and death

Speaking as he left the hospital in Tunisia, Tony Callaghan, 63, said: “It was absolutely terrifying, we were literally running for our lives.

“It was a click of a finger whether you lived or died, I feel so sorry for the 39 people who didn’t make it.”

His wife Criss Callaghan was also injured in the attack and is recovering in hospital.

14.44: Relatives in Britain search desperately for loved ones

Relatives of Britons missing since the Tunisian terrorist attack are desperately waiting for information on their loved ones.

Among those desperate for news is Ross Naylor, whose father Scott Chalkley, 42, was staying at a hotel in Sousse with partner Sue Davey.

He said he has not heard any news on their whereabouts despite several calls to their mobile phones, the hotel, the Foreign Office and a local hospital.

Mr Naylor, from Derby, added his fears had increased after hotel staff told him his father and partner were on the beach and had found some of their bags on the sand.

He wrote on Twitter: “Haven’t spoke to my Dad since the attack, please, please, please RT as he is missing along with his partner #Tunisia.”
Ms Davey’s son Conor said he thought he may have seen his mother on TV as she was being taken away on a stretcher.

Writing on Twitter, he said: “Still waiting on unconfirmed reports my mom has been shot in the leg and is being kept in a hospital near the attack.”
He added: “In this sort of situation you’re just clutching at straws.”

They have started a campaign on Twitter to find news of the pair using the hashtags #FindSueDavey and #FindScottChalkley.

12.40: Photo of Tunisian shooting suspect

Reuters news agency has released a photograph of a man they say is suspected of being involved in the Tunisia terror shooting. He is being pulled through a crowd by Tunisian officers where he is attacked by a woman.

12.25: Tui holiday firm says around 5,400 British customers remain in affected area of Tunisia

Holiday firm Tui, which runs the Thomson and First Choice brands, confirmed that a number of those who died were its customers.

Speaking outside the Tui UK building near Gatwick Airport today, Peter Long, joint CEO of Tui Group, said he was “deeply, deeply shocked”.

“And our whole organisation is reeling with pain to see the suffering that has taken place in Tunisia.”

He added that the company’s directors from locations across the UK confirmed that so far it has repatriated 1,000 customers and that 5,400 still remained in the area, with everything being done to help those who wanted to return to get on flights.

However, the company was unable to confirm how many of its customers had been killed or injured in the tragedy.

Travel agents’ association Abta said an estimated 20,000 people were currently on holiday with its members in Tunisia but there were also others who had travelled independently.

12.16: Met chief to give security update following attacks

Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley will read a statement at 12.30 outside New Scotland Yard to discuss latest security arrangements in the UK following the attacks in Tunisia and France.

11.07: David Cameron warns British public to expect more casualties

The Prime Minister said that he can only imagine the pain and anguish of families caught up in the tragedy in Sousse and said that the Government will do ‘whatever it takes’ to help them and do ‘everything necessary’ to get people home.

He added that there is ‘no place’ for ‘these Islamic extremists in the modern world’ and attacks like these strengthen the resolve to defeat them.

‘These terrorists will not suceed. For as much as they try to divide people around the world, they will only unite us more strongly in our determination to defeat these Islamist extremists and all that they stand for.’

Mr Cameron spoke at Downing Street as holiday companies Thomson and First Choice said that their customers were ‘among a number of fatalities’. They said that they had sent 10 places to bring home some 2,500 tourists.

Tourists who had been staying the in the country, which has become an increasingly popular destination for package holidaymakers, began to arrive back in the UK on Saturday with flights due at Manchester and Gatwick airports.

09:00:British holidaymakers begin to return to UK

The first landed plane carrying tourists arrived in Manchester at around 1:00am, with other planes touching down at around 8am.

The shell-shocked tourists arrived after one of the country’s major tour operators laid on special relief flights.

Holiday companies have said anyone booked in for a stay in Tunisia can change the destination with extra flights being laid on to go to the Cape Verde islands, Rhodes or Gran Canaria.

00:01: Irish, Belgians, Britons, Germans and Tunisians among the dead

Yesterday foreign secretary Philip Hammond confirmed that at least five Britons were among 37 killed in a gun attack at the Tunisian tourist resort and warned that a “high proportion” of the casualties could be British.

Eyewitness Gary Pine told Channel 4 News that mass confusion broke out on the beach in Sousse as bullets whizzed through the air.

Casualties have been reported and pictures have emerged showing bodies lying near sun loungers on the beach.

Tunisia’s health ministry said the fatalities included Belgians, Britons, Germans and Tunisians. An Irish woman is understood to be among the 28 victims, an Irish government source has said.

A security source said the gunman was armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle. It was unclear whether there were other assailants.

The Foreign Office’s helpline number for those concerned is 0207 008 0000.