Corfu children's deaths unlawful

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Holiday firm Thomas Cook "breached its duty of care" in the case of two children who died from carbon monoxide poisoning while on holiday in Corfu, an inquest jury has concluded.

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The family of the children is represented by Leslie Thomas QC of Garden Court Chambers. The verdict has been reported widely including on Sky News and BBC News.

Jurors returned a verdict of unlawful killing on Bobby and Christi Shepherd, who were aged six and seven. The children died at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel in October 2006. Wakefield Coroner's court was told the children had been overcome by fumes from a faulty hot water boiler.

Sharon Wood, the mother of the children, said:

“For everybody whose lives Christi and Bobby touched I'm hugely relieved that finally our fight for justice is over. We asked for lessons to be learned from our children's deaths. It will now fall to the coroner's recommendations to make Thomas Cook act more responsibly in the future.

"Thomas Cook said they offered our family practical and financial support. That is simply not true. Whilst we appreciate there were criminal convictions in Corfu, it is clear that Thomas Cook could and should have identified that lethal boiler. Thomas Cook put Christi and Bobby in that bungalow and I will always hold Thomas Cook responsible for their deaths”.

Neil Shepherd, the father of the children, said:

“From start to finish Thomas Cook have hidden behind a wall of silence and have refused to answer any questions for nearly 9 years. Thomas Cook are not blameless. We are disappointed they have refused to apologise to us.

“What is the point of a health and safety policy if it is not followed? What is the point of health and safety audits if they are not carried out by qualified vigilant staff? Thomas Cook failed our family. That boiler room should have been checked. Ruth and I nearly died in that bungalow. The bottom line is, had Thomas Cook followed its own policy Christi and Bobby would be alive today”.

Leslie Thomas QC said:

“Thomas Cook is a multi-billion pound operation. They take money from families like this family who expect to go on holiday and have the time of their lives. They don't expect to return from holiday with their children in coffins because Thomas Cook staff failed to properly check the standards of the hotel they stayed in.

“These children were killed unlawfully as a result of criminal negligence. No proper explanation has been forthcoming as to how this happened. Thomas Cook should hang its head in shame as a result of these deaths. The families of Christi and Bobby have waited nearly 9 years for an apology. They are still waiting.

"When invited to apologise last week the Chief Executive of Thomas Cook said ‘I have nothing to apologise for’. Today this jury found that Thomas Cook staff failed to carry out proper health and safety checks, were not given proper training and did not carry out safety checks vigilantly. We ask: will Thomas Cook now say sorry?"

The family of the children is represented by Leslie Thomas QC of Garden Court Chambers, who is instructed by Gemma Vine of Lester Morrill Solicitors.

Leslie is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Inquests Team.

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