Thomas Cook launches £1m charity with mother of Bobby and Christi Shepherd

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Tour operator Thomas Cook has set up a £1m charity in memory of two children who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a holiday chalet.

Bobby and Christi Shepherd, aged six and seven, died when they were overcome by fumes from a faulty boiler while on holiday in Corfu in 2006.

Thomas Cook was found to have breached its duty of care of the two children during an inquest into their deaths, and West Yorkshire coroner David Hinchcliff ruled the youngsters had been unlawfully killed.

Now the company has set up the Safer Tourism Foundation, which will work with the children’s mother Sharon Wood on improving standards for holiday makers when they venture abroad.

Sitting on a panel with the holiday operator’s chief executive to officially launch the organisation at the start of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week in the House of Commons, Mrs Wood said she would never forget the role Thomas Cook played in her son and daughter’s deaths.

Yet she said she had to work with the company so that progress is made on improved safety.

She said: “I find it hard to forgive, and impossible to forget, but I put my personal feelings to one side because I want to make a difference for the future and I sincerely believe that this collaborative approach is the best way to achieve this.

“This is Christi and Bobby’s legacy, so it really, truly and deeply matters to me.”

The children’s father Neil Shepherd was also at the meeting and questioned the worth of new guidelines over the safety of gas boilers in private rented accommodation in the UK, which accounts for just eight per cent of all the homes in Britain.

Mr Shepherd was found unconscious with his girlfriend Ruth, who he has since married, at the holiday villa in Corfu by a cleaner.

During the meeting, chaired by the Wakefield Labour MP Mary Creagh, attendees heard from accident and emergency consultant doctor Simon Clarke, who said more should be done to raise awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is known as a “great mimicker” because its symptoms are so similar to other illnesses.

Mary Creagh MP said: “I felt it was important to bring together politicians, industry experts, campaign groups and of course victims of CO poisoning.

“We have made good progress in the nine years since Christi and Bobby Shepherd lost their lives on holiday, but it is clear that there is still more to do. They (Thomas Cook) must now deliver on their commitment to lead better standards in their industry, and campaigning for legislative change in the UK and Europe.”