The grieving father of the two children who died of carbon monoxide poisoning on a Thomas Cook holiday in Corfu in 2006 broke down in tears in a Greek court today as he told of the moments leading up to their deaths.
Christianne Shepherd, seven, and her brother Robert, six, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, died after a faulty boiler leaked gas into their Corfu bungalow in October 2006.
The children were on holiday with their father Neil and his partner Ruth Beatson, who were both left in a coma as a result of the accident but survived.
Two Thomas Cook employees, Nicola Gibson and Richard Carson who have the operator’s full support, today went on trial in Corfu Town charged with manslaughter by negligence and bodily harm by negligence. They were joined in the dock by nine Greeks, including staff from the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel in Gouvia, where the children died.
Giving evidence at the trial, Shepherd described the hours leading up to the tragedy, adding: “About 10 minutes after we had gone to bed Christi sat up and started being sick. I immediately got up and went over to her to help. When I sat up I felt dizzy but my concern was for my daughter.”
Shepherd said he was then sick himself while Beatson began to complain of feeling dizzy as she went to tend to Robert.
He added: “I can’t remember anything after me being sick because I just passed out within a few seconds.
Shepherd and Beatson, who are now married, were both taken to a hospital in Athens and regained consciousness after a few days. It was there that they were both told of the deaths of Shepherd’s children.
Struggling to compose himself as he recalled the aftermath of the accident, Shepherd told the court he relied on the Greek authorities for information concerning the accident, adding: “We were in no position to do anything; we were both extremely poorly and traumatised.”
During the afternoon, Shepherd told court that he later learnt the faulty boiler which leaked the carbon monoxide was placed outside the bungalow.
He added: “We know there was a hole from out of the boiler into the room and we know that the carbon monoxide built up and built up and poured through the hole.”
He added safety was the family’s main concern when booking the holiday, adding the couple presumed the five-star resort would have the best facilities and be safer than a hotel with less stars.
The case continues today before a break is taken and it is resumed later this month. The charges brought against the two Thomas Cook reps have angered many people in the UK travel industry who believe they should not be held culpable for the incident which occurred in the hotel.
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