Badly fitted appliance caused Corfu deaths, court told

A catalogue of errors installing and maintaining a gas boiler caused a carbon monoxide leak that led to the deaths of two children, a court heard today.

Christianne Shepherd, seven, and her six-year-old brother Robert, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, died after being overcome by fumes while on a family holiday in Corfu, Greece, in October 2006.

Their father, Neil Shepherd, and his partner, Ruth Beatson, both fell into a coma and were admitted to hospital, but survived the poisoning.

Richard Carson and Nicola Gibson, who worked for Thomas Cook when the incident occurred, will appear in Corfu Town courthouse to face charges of manslaughter and negligence.

They are accused, along with nine Greek defendants including hotel staff, of causing manslaughter by negligence in relation to the children, and of causing bodily injury by negligence to Shepherd and Beatson.

Harry Rogers, a retired mechanical engineer, investigated the bungalow at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel in Gouvia just after the tragedy.

He told the court the leak was caused by a wired-out gas valve, a bypassed thermostat, the lack of a flue and chimney, and a gap between the family’s bungalow and the outhouse where the boiler was contained.

Gaps in unfinished air conditioning pipes also contributed to the tragedy. Rogers described the boiler as in a “distressed state” and said parts were missing.

“The parts that should have been fitted were on the floor – the flue that should have been fitted in the top of the boiler was on the floor.”

Sharon Wood, the children’s mother, told the court she was happy for her husband to take her children away because it was with a reputable tour operator.

Asked Thomas Cook’s checks of the gas appliance, she said: “I believe that it was Thomas Cook’s job to check the gas appliances on a regular basis in accordance with legislation.

“I believe it’s their responsibility to ensure that things are safe. We had a contract with Thomas Cook and they had a duty of care. They should have protected my children.”

Thomas Cook said the accident was a “terrible tragedy” caused by unforeseen circumstances and not the responsibility of its two employees.

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