Thursday 22 February 2018

Corfu children deaths: convicted staff found working at Thomas Cook hotels

Christi and Bobby Shepherd as the jury in the inquests into the deaths of the two young children who died of carbon monoxide poisoning during a holiday in Greece will continue its deliberations Credit: West Yorkshire Police/PA Wire
Christi and Bobby Shepherd as the jury in the inquests into the deaths of the two young children who died of carbon monoxide poisoning during a holiday in Greece will continue its deliberations Credit: West Yorkshire Police/PA Wire

Dan Hyde

The manager and electrician at the Thomas Cook hotel in Corfu where two children were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning nine years ago have been working at hotels used by the travel company, despite being convicted of manslaughter.

An investigation by ITN found the former manager, Georgios Chrysikopoulos, had been working at another Thomas Cook hotel in Crete since April.

Christos Louvros, the hotel electrician also found guilty of unlawful killing by the Corfu trial in 2010, had returned to work where the children died, Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel, which still hosts holidaymakers from the Netherlands.

In a statement Thomas Cook said it had been "unaware" that the two men had been re-employed until it was contacted, and has since asked for them to be dismissed "immediately".

The revelations came as the parents of Bobby and Christi Shepherd, who died in tragic circumstances in 2006, called for the bungalow in which they stayed to be demolished. Sharon Wood and Neil Shepherd said they would like the land to be turned into a playground in memory of their children.

On Thursday afternoon they met the chief executive of the Thomas Cook for the first time after years of fighting for justice and a full apology.

Peter Fankhauser, who took on the role last November, assured the couple that he had taken "immediate" action when it found Mr Chrysikopoulos had been re-employed.

Read more: Parents of children who died of carbon monoxide poisoning while in Corfu hit out at Thomas Cook

"I got almost sick that it was not us that detected it," he told Sky News.

He said his "heart breaks" for the family and promised "substantial" compensation.

"This is a meeting which should have happened when I first took over as chef executive and frankly something Thomas Cook should have done 9 years ago," he said.

"We came to a mutual understanding which I hope will enable them to move on with their lives."

The family, from Horbury, near Wakefield, were found by a chambermaid in a bungalow at their hotel in Corfu. They were poisoned by toxic gas leaking from a faulty boiler. The father and stepmother recovered from a coma in hospital.

Last week an inquest ruled that Thomas Cook "breached its duty of care".

The amount the parents have received is understood to cover legal and inquest costs, as well as providing a donation to multiple charities, including CO Gas Safety, the British Heart Foundation and the NSPCC.

The family had complained earlier this week that they were not consulted by Thomas Cook about the firm's £1.5 million donation to Unicef.

Mrs Wood said: "Nothing can give us back our children or the carefree lives we led.

"No one can erase the life-long pain for Christi and Bobby's family and friends.

"We cannot change the past and we accept it may be time to look to the future."

Read more: 'I will always hold Thomas Cook responsible' - Mother of two children who died of carbon monoxide poisoning on holiday

Mr Fankhauser described the delay in meeting the family as his biggest mistake since taking over as chief executive. He said he was "grateful" the family had agreed to meet him and accept his full apology.

He insisted the company's "absolute focus" was to ensure it was at the "forefront" of safety for its customers, which are more than 20 million in number each year.

On the discovery that some holidaymakers had been sent to hotels where convicted staff were working, he said: "I am demanding immediate answers from the hotel groups and I will be holding them fully to account.

"We will not do business with any hotel that exposes our customers to these people.

"Some hoteliers thought it was acceptable – we absolutely disagree.

He said the company would shortly be appointing a "senior independent expert" to carry out a full inquiry, and to "see how we can improve and to ensure this never happens again".

The family's lawyer Leslie Thomas QC said: "Today for the first time in this tragedy Thomas Cook have done the right thing.

"They listened to the heart-breaking accounts from my clients and heard how their company effectively destroyed their lives.

"Mr Fankhauser apologised to my clients face-to-face for all the mistakes he and his company made over the last nine years.

"He kept his word and gave a sincere and heartfelt apology. In addition Thomas Cook has made a financial gesture of goodwill towards both families."

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