Thomas Cook offers parents payout
PUBLISHED: 11:57 22 May 2015 | UPDATED: 11:57 22 May 2015
The parents of two children who died of carbon monoxide poisoning on a Thomas Cook holiday in Corfu have been offered a "financial gesture of goodwill" by the firm.
Sharon Wood and Neil Shepherd, whose children, Bobby and Christi Shepherd, were killed in 2006, met the travel giant’s chief executive, Peter Fankhauser, in London today, where he gave a “sincere and heartfelt” apology, their lawyer said.
The meeting came as it emerged that the hotel electrician who was found guilty of unlawful killing over the deaths of seven-year-old Christi and six-year-old Bobby had returned to work at the hotel where the children died.
Meanwhile, an investigation by ITV News found that the hotel manager who was convicted of negligent manslaughter in connection with the tragedy had returned to work at another hotel in Crete which holidaymakers can book through Thomas Cook.
Mr Fankhauser said he raised the issue during a meeting with the children’s parents, where it was agreed that Thomas Cook would donate an undisclosed amount to a series of charities.
At a press conference, Mrs Wood said: “Nothing can give us back our children or the carefree lives we once led. No-one can erase the lifelong 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.”
The parents’ lawyer, Leslie Thomas QC, told a press conference that the company had “done the right thing” for the first time.
He said: “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 have made a financial gesture of goodwill towards both families and we hope this will go some way to repairing the pain that they have suffered.”
Mrs Wood added: “We have asked Thomas Cook to push forward our request to demolish bungalow 112 so that it can be a lasting tribute in the form of a playground in the spot where Christi and Bobby died.
“I hope that Thomas Cook, and everyone who has defended its wrongdoings, now realises the impact of their actions on families like ours and that they will learn the lessons they need to learn from this tragedy.
“We look forward to some normality to our life in the sure and certain knowledge that we have done everything we can to get justice for Christi and Bobby’s deaths.”
Mr Shepherd said Thomas Cook had agreed to make “substantial” donations to charities chosen by the family - CO Gas Safety, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the NSPCC, the Multiple Sclerosis Society and Inquest.
Bobby and Christi, from Horbury, near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, died when they were overcome by fumes from a faulty boiler as they stayed in a bungalow in the grounds of a hotel with their father and his partner Ruth, now his wife.
The jury at the inquest into their deaths gave a conclusion of unlawful killing and said Thomas Cook had “breached their duty of care”.
Mr Fankhauser said he felt “physically sick” when it emerged that George Chrysikopoulos, who was convicted of negligent manslaughter over the deaths, had been managing the Mitsis Laguna Hotel in Crete since April 1.
Chrysikopoulos has since been dismissed from his post, while Thomas Cook has also called for electrician Christos Louvros, who was found guilty of negligent manslaughter, to be sacked after returning to work at Corfu’s Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel.
Some customers have threatened to boycott Thomas Cook after it emerged that the firm received around £3 million compensation from the hotel chain responsible for the incident, and following criticisms from the family.
The travel company said earlier this week that it would donate £1.5 million to the charity Unicef, while the remaining £1.5 million went to its insurers for underwriting legal fees.
After meeting Christi and Bobby’s family, Mr Fankhauser said: “I am so grateful for the opportunity to meet and listen to Sharon Wood and Neil Shepherd.
“Having heard what they have had to say today, my heart breaks for them. This is a meeting which should have happened when I first took over as chief executive in November and frankly something Thomas Cook should have done nine years ago.
“Following our meeting today, we came to a mutual understanding which I hope will enable them to move on with their lives.”