Travel firm Thomas Cook faces a new investigation by the Crown Prosecution Service into the deaths of two children during a £2,000 holiday booked through it at one of its recommended Corfu hotels in 2006.
Christie Shepherd, seven, and her brother Bobby, six, died when a faulty boiler pumped out poisonous carbon monoxide gas which, due to botched building works leaked into their room at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel. At the inquest held last month the coroner recorded a verdict of unlawful killing, and that Thomas Cook had breached its duty of care to customers, aspects that have legal implications for civil liability and corporate manslaughter.
At the inquest Thomas Cook directors and employees closed ranks and exercised their legal right to refuse to answer questions that might have incriminated their employer. Current chief executive Peter Fankhauser told the inquest that there was no need for him to apologise because there was no wrongdoing by Thomas Cook, who had only accepted without checking the hotel’s false claim that there were no gas-fuelled water heaters on the complex, a claim for which the hotel has paid Thomas Cook a reported £3.5 million in compensation.
It remains to be seen whether Thomas Cook are legally right to absolve themselves from any responsibility for the deaths. However, given their arguably sloppy approach to the health and safety of their customers they might win in court but lose in the marketplace.