Bobby and Christi Shepherd inquests: Thomas Cook ‘breached its duty of care’

Christi and Bobby Shepherd
Christi and Bobby Shepherd

Tour operator Thomas Cook “breached its duty of care” over the deaths of two Horbury schoolchildren who were poisoned by carbon monoxide while on holiday in Corfu.

Today a jury found that Bobby Shepherd, six, and her elder brother Christi, seven, were unlawfully killed during a half term break back in October 2006.

The children had been on holiday with their father Neil and his then partner, now wife, Ruth, when fumes from a faulty boiler seeped into the bungalow they were staying in.

Bobby and Christi were both found dead in the chalet and Neil and Ruth were both in a coma.

Jurors returned a unanimous verdict after a two week inquest and quoted nine reasons for the children’s deaths.

The reasons given by the jury foreman were:

- The boiler was incorrectly installed and badly maintained.

- A fuel protection device on the boiler was disconnected deliberately.

- Air conditioning pipes were badly fitted.

- The hotel misled or lied to the tour operator about the gas supply to hotel and bungalows.

- The resort audit carried out in 2004 by the tour operator was inadequate.

- The monthly health and safety audit form didn’t reflect the tour operators’ health and safety policy guidelines.

- Resort staff were not given enough health and safety information about how to identify the presence of gas.

- The resort audit done in 2004 was incomplete. Checks were not carried out vigilantly as stated in the tour operators training manual - i.e. the boiler room was not identified.

- The tour operator breached its duty of care.

Coroner David Hinchliff, said he would work with the family’s and Thomas Cook’s legal teams to try and prevent anything similar from happening in the future.

He said: “I regard the outcome of this inquest as an extremely important matter and I would hope there will be lessons learnt from it.”

Mr Hinchliff told Bobby and Christi’s family: “You have my eternal sorrow for what happened to you. I don’t think any of us can imagine the amount of sorrow and grief you have gone through and continue to go through.”