Leeds & West Yorkshire

Corfu gas deaths: Family's long legal battles

Christianne and Robert Shepherd Image copyright PA
Image caption Christianne Shepherd, seven, and her brother Robert, six, died from carbon monoxide poisoning while on holiday in Corfu in 2006

Two British children who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a Greek holiday home were unlawfully killed, an inquest has ruled. It's the latest chapter in a long legal fight by their family.

Christi Shepherd, seven, and her brother Bobby, six, were in Corfu in October 2006 with their father and his girlfriend when the tragedy happened.

It was meant to be a relaxing half-term break at the Louis Corcyra hotel in Gouvia, a small Greek fishing village.

What the family didn't know was fumes from a "decrepit" faulty boiler were leaking into their bungalow, slowly poisoning them.

The whole family, form Horbury in West Yorkshire, were overcome by the fumes and collapsed, leaving them in comas.

When father Neil Shepherd and his partner Ruth Beatson emerged from their unconscious state in hospital days later they were told the terrible news.

The children were dead.

The pair have since married and have battled alongside the children's mother, Sharon Wood, to hold people to account for the deaths.

Image caption The boiler was described as "decrepit" in previous hearings
Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Neil Shepherd (centre) carries the coffin of one of his children

Following a three-year battle by the family in the Greek courts a criminal trial was held in 2010.

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.

Throughout the numerous legal proceedings the family has blamed their tour operator Thomas Cook for the children's deaths.

However, the trial cleared the firm of any responsibility.

Thomas Cook was awarded damages against the hotel's owner following a High Court hearing in 2013.

Its claim related to costs incurred by the tour operator for the trial of its two travel reps.

Legal aid fight

Christi and Bobby's parents said at the time of the award, they were "very shocked to hear that Thomas Cook have been successful in claiming damages relating to the deaths of our children".

The inquest in England into the deaths began five years after the criminal trial in Greece.

The trio had to fight for legal aid to be represented at the inquest. Their funding bid was initially refused as lawyers are not normally required at inquests.

Following a meeting involving David Cameron, their MP and the legal aid minister, funding was provided.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Neil Shepherd and Sharon Wood battled to get legal aid to be represented at the inquest

After announcing the decision to award funding in May 2014, legal aid minister Shailesh Vara said: "Questions remain unanswered and I have therefore authorised legal aid for representation at the inquest to hopefully provide much-needed answers."

Nicola Jordison, one of the reps found not guilty in the Greek trial, declined to answer questions during the recent inquest in Wakefield.

The chief executive of Thomas Cook at the time of the deaths, Manny Fontenla-Novoa, also declined to answer a series of questions from the parents' lawyer.

Coroner Mr Hinchliff had told Mr Fontenla-Novoa "this is not a trial" but "there is the potential you might have to be involved in future criminal proceedings... and you don't have to answer questions which could incriminate you".

Following the jury's verdict, Ms Wood said she was relieved "our fight for justice is over."

"It is clear that Thomas Cook could and should have identified that lethal boiler," she said.

"Thomas Cook put Christi and Bobby in that bungalow and I will always hold Thomas Cook responsible for their deaths."

Related Topics

More on this story