Following the Coroner's verdict at the Tunisia Inquests today, Tuesday 28 February, Commander Dean Haydon of the Met Police Counter Terrorism Command talks about the investigation into the terrorist attack in Sousse.
When I heard the news that British holidaymakers had been killed in a suspected terrorist attack in Sousse, on 26 June 2015, I - like so many of us - was shocked.
The attack in which the overwhelming majority of victims – 30 out of 38 people killed and 17 out of 34 injured - were British, was an attack on our nation.
They were parents, grandparents, children, siblings and partners, just like us.
It required a major British operation to ensure that the victims, survivors and their families received the support they needed and that the most comprehensive evidence possible was gathered, to help understand exactly what had happened. The British police, with our unique experience and expertise, had a central role to play in this.
My command worked with police forces and partners around the UK to launch a huge policing response. Officers with exceptional expertise in victim care, working overseas and counter terrorism investigations, pulled together to carry out this work quickly, sensitively and thoroughly.
Following the attack, officers flew out to Sousse, where they quickly developed a working relationship with the Tunisian authorities, so that they could keep families in the UK informed about the Tunisian authorities’ investigation.
Back in the UK, a team of more than 100 specialist family liaison officers from 16 UK police forces were assigned to support more than 300 family members affected by the tragedy. They provided them with guidance on what was happening in Tunisia and ensured that relatives were given access to agencies including the NHS, Victim Support, the Red Cross, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and the Coroners’ Witness Service.
They also provided support to the survivors in the lead up to the inquest, at which some were to bravely provide personal accounts of what happened to them and their loved ones.
Meanwhile a team of my officers travelled to airports across the UK where they spoke to over 2,000 people returning from Tunisia – all were potential witnesses to the attack whose statements could crucially assist in understanding what had happened.
Met Police officers in Sousse used specialist technology to create a detailed digital reconstruction of the area, the movements of the attacker and those who died and were injured.
This was a task that involved a week of capturing images in Sousse and months of development afterwards, and enabled us to present to the Coroner and the families a detailed and accurate depiction of the scene at the inquests, so that we could all better understand what happened that day.
Our duty to the victims and their families continued when the inquests opened at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. It wasn’t going to be possible for all the families of those who died to attend the hearings, and we helped the Coroner’s office to set up and manage a number of satellite courts across the UK at which families could watch live footage of the inquests.
The impact of the terrorist attack in Sousse was felt by the whole nation but none more so than the survivors and the families and friends of those who died - as a police officer, I have been determined to ensure that we do the best we can for them.
As a father and a husband, I have been humbled by their sheer courage and dignity in the face of such incomprehensible tragedy.