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17 Sep 2018

BY James Chapple

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TRFBLI

Coroner to open inquests into Cook hotel deaths

Inquests into the deaths of two Thomas Cook holidaymakers “killed by E. coli” in Egypt will be opened and adjourned this week.

John and Susan Cooper.jpg
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Coroner to open inquests into Cook hotel deaths

Cook agent Susan Cooper and her husband John, from Burnley, fell fatally ill at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic hotel in Hurghada on August 21.


The Egyptian authorities reported last week the couple died after contracting E. coli.


Thomas Cook’s own independent tests of the food, water and air conditioning at the hotel found a “high level of E. coli and staphylococcus bacteria”, a common cause of food poisoning.


The report would appear to dispel suggestions the couple were poisoned by an insecticide used to fumigate the room next to theirs while they stayed at the hotel.


Daughter Kelly Ormerod though, who was holidaying with her parents at the same hotel, says she had little faith in the Egyptian authorities and has maintained there was an unusual smell in her parents’ room when she found them gravely ill.


The couple’s bodies were repatriated last week. James Adeley, senior coroner for Lancashire, said the inquests could take several months while the results are compared to the findings of the Egyptian authorities.


Cook pulled all 300 of its guests out of the hotel following the deaths of Mr and Mrs Cooper, citing a raised level of illness. Chief executive Peter Fankhauser confirmed 13 Cook holidaymakers were suffering food poisoning when the Coopers died.


Cook said it was clear from the results of its tests “something went wrong in August” at the hotel, adding “standards fell below what we expect from our hotel partners”.


In a statement following the publication of the Egyptian authorities’ conclusions, Cook added: “Thomas Cook notes the announcement by the Egyptian prosecutor on the results of the autopsies of John and Susan Cooper following their deaths at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic in Hurghada. We have not yet seen the full report and we will need time for our own experts to review it.”


Hotel operator Steigenberger, meanwhile, says it has already increased quality control across its hotels and has pledged to uphold even higher standards after the results of the investigation “did not match the stringent quality and safety standards” it expects of its hotels.


However, the operator added in a statement it could not yet be established Mr and Mrs Cooper contracted the infection believed to have killed them at the Aqua Magic hotel.

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