TUNISIA UPDATE: Family’s tribute to murdered parents

Elaine and Denis Thwaites

Elaine and Denis Thwaites

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The family of a couple killed in a terror attack in Tunisia have today released a statement thanking people for their support.

Westminster sources yesterday confirmed Denis and Elaine Thwaites were killed on Friday in an attack by Tunisian student Seifeddine Rezgui, 23.

A beachside vigil in Tunisia yesterday

A beachside vigil in Tunisia yesterday

The gunman, who has links to terror organisation Islamic State, opened fire on the couple and other holidaymakers around noon, leaving 38 dead, including up to 30 Britons.

Today daughter Lindsey Clifford and son-in-law Daniel Clifford issued a statement thanking the support of loved ones.

It said: “Lindsey and I would like to express our extreme gratitude for the support from all family and friends.

“We would also like to express our gratitude for the support and messages received from everyone.

“Words can’t express what all the family are feeling at this difficult time.”

The pair also thanked the police, Red Cross and BBC for their help.

Mr Clifford confirmed news of Mr and Mrs Thwaites’ deaths on Facebook site yesterday. It states: “There is now a void in our lives that will never be filled, but your thoughts and words will keep Lindsey and I strong at this most difficult time. Thank you x

“Mum and Dad were the kindest, caring, loving parents any daughter could wish for. Rest in Peace now my Angels xxxx.”

It is understood the family were told of the news about the couple’s deaths on Sunday – with friends posting tributes on Facebook to the pair.

Jilly Cadd wrote: “My sincere condolences to the family... Words fail me... May they rest in peace.... So very sorry.”

Sam Thewlis said: “Devastating news. So sad for the whole family. Together forever. Tragic beyond words xx”

And Jennifer Sandhu added: “How awful. Thoughts are with the family. Terrible news.”

And Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden tweeted: “Very sad to hear Denis & Elaine Thwaites from Blackpool among those killed in the terrorist attack in Sousse & condolences to their family

The Thwaites’ family had launched an appeal for information after not hearing from the couple since Thursday.

The pair were reported on Saturday to be recovering in hospital following the horror attack.

But the family later said they were given misinformation and did not know if they were safe and well.

Their son-in-law Daniel Clifford, of Blackpool, said: “We were told by a Thomson Holiday rep through a friend that they were injured in hospital.

“The next thing they are unaccounted for.”

It is believed the couple’s daughter, Lindsey Clifford and her husband Mr Clifford, have now flown out to Tunisia.

Mr Thwaites, 70, is from Stockton and Mrs Thwaites, 69, is from Birmingham, but live in Blackpool.

They were staying at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Tunisia.

Mr Thwaites used to play for Birmingham FC and retired from professional football in 1972 aged 27.

He moved to Blackpool where it is believed he became a hospital porter.

It is understood Mrs Thwaites worked in the Blackpool hotel industry.

Yesterday Tunisian officials confirmed suspected associates of the gunman who carried out the beach massacre had been arrested.

Home Secretary Theresa May visited the scene of the attack in Sousse yesterday while Prime Minister promised a “full spectrum response” to extremist terror.

He said the “existential threat” posed by the emergence of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was “the struggle of our generation and we have to fight it with everything we can”.

Scotland Yard has said more than 600 officers are involved in what is its largest counter-terrorism operation since the 7/7 bombings.

Thousands of tourists have arrived back in the UK from Tunisia in the wake of Friday’s beach massacre. Holiday firms have scrambled extra flights on top of scheduled services for people seeking to flee back to Britain – with most expected to return today.

On Friday there will be a nationwide minute’s silence at noon following the terrorist attack.