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Corfu children's deaths: Thomas Cook 'breached duty of care'

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Media captionParents Sharon Wood and Neil Shepherd: "Thomas Cook failed our family"

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.

Jurors returned a verdict of unlawful killing of Bobby and Christi Shepherd, who were aged six and seven.

The children had been overcome by fumes from a faulty hot water boiler at their hotel in October 2006.

Their mother said she would always blame the company for their deaths.

Speaking after the verdict, Sharon Wood said: "It's clear Thomas Cook should and could have identified that lethal boiler.

"There will never be true justice for the deaths of my two innocent children. [The verdict] has brought this tragedy to a respectful end.

"Rest in peace our beautiful angels."

Thomas Cook pointed out an investigation by the Greek authorities had cleared its employees of any wrongdoing.

'Wall of silence'

The children, from Horbury near Wakefield, were on holiday at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel with their father, Neil, and his now wife, Ruth, when they died.

They were found by a chambermaid in a bungalow at the hotel.

Their father and stepmother had also become ill and were in a coma when they were found but recovered in hospital.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Christianne Shepherd, seven, and her brother Robert, six, died from carbon monoxide poisoning

The inquest heard the faulty hot water boiler had been housed in an outbuilding attached to the side of the bungalow where the family were staying.

The children's father, Neil Shepherd, said Thomas Cook had "hidden behind a wall of silence".

"Thomas Cook failed our family. That boiler room should have been checked," he said.

Thomas Cook said in a statement it had been "shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic loss" of the children but there had been a thorough investigation by the Greek authorities which had cleared its employees of any wrongdoing.

It continued: "Thomas Cook recognises that the pain caused by this terrible accident will never go away and must be still very hard for friends and family to bear.

"The systems which were in place in 2006, which were intended to prevent such a tragedy, have since been thoroughly revised and address the criticisms made by the jury.

"The health and safety of our customers is of paramount importance and we continuously review and strive to improve all our procedures."

Image caption The children were overcome by fumes from a faulty hot water boiler

West Yorkshire Coroner David Hinchcliff said he would make a series of recommendations to the holiday industry at a later date.

A criminal trial was held in Greece in 2010 and three people, including the manager of the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel and two members of staff, were found guilty of manslaughter by negligence and sentenced to seven years.

Eight other people were cleared, including two Thomas Cook travel reps.


Analysis by Danny Savage, North of England Correspondent

Nine years is a long time to wait for an inquest, but since Christi and Bobby Shepherd died, there has been a criminal trial and a lengthy legal process in Greece.

The manager of the hotel was found guilty of manslaughter by negligence and sentenced to seven years. Two other hotel workers were convicted too but, as far as the family is aware, none of them actually went to prison because of the Greek appeals process.

Two Thomas Cook holiday reps were cleared at trial in Greece. And it's the holiday company who the children's parents still feel bitter towards. Could Thomas Cook have averted this tragedy? Rulings so far favour the travel company. After its staff were cleared at trial the firm was awarded £1m in compensation from the hotel involved. The family say they received a much smaller sum from the hotel.

But relationships between the family and Thomas Cook are not good. They were further soured when executives from the company refused to answer some questions during the inquest - as was their legal right to do so. The officials expressed deep sorrow for the family but insisted there was no wrongdoing by the company.

So what happens now? West Yorkshire Police has already investigated the deaths and passed the details on to the CPS. It concluded there was insufficient evidence to prosecute anyone in the UK in relation to the case.

There's a strong possibility this will be the last time these events ever have such a high public profile. The parents of Bobby and Christi say they hope this is the last time they have to go through the painful details but, above all, they hope all the publicity will prevent this happening to another family.


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