We reported earlier this month on the coroner inquest into the deaths of two British children in Corfu as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. The inquest, held at Wakefield Coroners Court, heard that fumes from a faulty boiler situated in an outhouse of a holiday bungalow led to the deaths of Robert and Christianne Shepherd, aged six and seven, of West Yorkshire. That inquest has now ruled that the children were unlawfully killed and the tour operator, Thomas Cook, breached their “duty of care”.
The UK inquest began five years after the criminal trial in Greece where, although managers and certain members of staff at the hotel were convicted of manslaughter, Thomas Cook was cleared of all fault. The children’s family had to fight for legal aid to be represented at the inquest. Their funding bid was initially refused given that lawyers are not normally required at inquests. However, following a meeting involving David Cameron, their MP and the legal aid minister, funding was eventually provided.
During the two-week inquest, several former employees of Thomas Cook appeared but exercised their legal right not to answer questions which could be self-incriminatory. Among these employees was Nicola Jordison, a holiday rep at the time of the incident, who had been charged and tried for manslaughter by the Greek authorities, but was cleared in 2010.
West Yorkshire Coroner David Hinchliff told the jury the only decision they could reach "would be a conclusion of unlawful killing". The coroner sent the jury out to consider its conclusions with instructions on how to fill out a form detailing how and why the children died. Mr Hinchliff said he would be making a series of recommendations to the holiday industry in July following the findings of the inquest, and called on the tour industry to introduce rules to ensure such an incident is never repeated. These recommendations will be cautiously awaited by the industry.
Despite the findings, there will be no criminal prosecution against Thomas Cook. The Crown Prosecution Service have reviewed a detailed police investigation into the incident and have taken the decision not to prosecute.
For further information see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-32719823