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Holiday reps face five years for gas deaths

A Greek court was today considering a verdict in the case of two tour firm employees charged over the deaths of a brother and sister who were poisoned by carbon monoxide.

Christianne Shepherd (7) and her brother Robert (6), from West Yorkshire, died after a faulty boiler leaked gas into their Corfu bungalow in October 2006.

The children were on a midterm holiday with their father Neil Shepherd and his partner Ruth Beatson, who were both left in a coma as a result of the accident but survived.

Thomas Cook employees Richard Carson (28) and Nicola Gibson (26) are charged alongside nine Greeks with manslaughter by negligence in relation to the children and causing bodily injury by negligence to Mr Shepherd and Ms Beatson.

They face up to five years in prison if found guilty.

During the trial the court heard how carbon monoxide fumes at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel in Gouvia leaked into the family bungalow from an outhouse next door.

Prosecutor Thomas Athanasiou said yesterday: "In 2006 Thomas Cook brought to Corfu 50,000 visitors and left Corfu with 49,998 visitors.

"They left both Christi and Bobby behind them and this is something they should always be made to remember for it never to happen again."

District Attorney Maria Tataki said Thomas Cook did not do enough to ensure the bungalows were safe. She said the tour operator should have carried out a more thorough inspection.

She said: "It doesn't suffice to say that you trust the owners of the hotel, that you trust the managers of the hotel. No. It's not enough."

Carson was employed as a customer affairs executive, with responsibility for filling out health and safety questionnaires, while Gibson was an overseas representative.

But Carson had little knowledge of gas and accepted the hotel manager's response when he said gas was not being used in the rooms.

The prosecutors argued that he should have seen the five large gas tanks at the hotel and asked what they were.

The court heard the boiler in question was in a "repulsive" state and was "decrepit" with "rust corrosion".

Not only was there no chimney for the boiler, the thermostatic safety valve had been bypassed. There was also a hole between the outhouse and the bungalow, allowing the fumes to pass through.

During the trial lawyers for the hotel staff, boiler maintenance engineers and builders blamed each other for the deaths.