The owner of the hotel in Egypt where two Thomas Cook holidaymakers “died of E. coli” has pledged to “increase quality control” following their deaths - but says it cannot yet be confirmed they contracted the infection at the hotel where they were staying.
Steigenberger AG, owner of the Steigenberger Aqua Magic hotel in Hurghada, said the findings of an investigation into the deaths of Cook agent Susan Cooper and husband John “did not match the stringent quality and safety standards” it expects of its hotels.
Egypt’s general prosecutor, Nabil Sabek, said on Wednesday the Coopers died after contracting E. coli last month.
Sabek said post-mortem examinations found Mr Cooper suffered acute intestinal dysentery caused by E. coli, while Ms Cooper suffered Hemolytic-uremic syndrome, likely also caused by E. coli.
The report rebutted suggestions the Coopers may have been poisoned by insecticide after the room next to theirs was fumigated during their stay.
Cook pulled all 300 of its guests out of the hotel after the Coopers died on August 21, citing a “raised level of illness”.
Its own independent tests of the water, food and air conditioning at the Steigenberger found a “high level of E. coli” at the hotel.
However, the operator said the tests - which it had independently verified by a doctor in London - failed to shed any further light on the couple’s death after the Egyptian authorities refused to grant any other parties access to the room where the Coopers died.
Thomas Willms, chief executive of Steigenberger AG Hotels, said he was “deeply saddened and concerned” by what had happened at the Aqua Magic hotel in Hurghada and offered the Coopers’ family his “heartfelt condolences”.
“The findings of the autopsy do not match the stringent quality and safety standards that apply to all Steigenberger Hotels,” said Willms.
He said the group had already “increased measurements and quality checks” at its hotels “to prevent such a tragic event being repeated”.
“These actions are in addition to the constant investigations and quality checks which Steigenberger does in all hotels,” said Willms. “Guidelines and safety specifications for all franchise hotels will be reviewed and updated where necessary.
“Since we haven’t seen the full report of the prosecutor yet and considering the fact controls and examinations at Aqua Magic hotel are ongoing, we cannot confirm the family was infected through food consumed on the hotel premises.”
Willms added he would personally oversee all efforts to ensure Steigenberger hotels are safe: “This is an area in which I am not prepared to make any compromises,” said Willms.
He stressed the group was conducting “intense discussions about our future relationship with our operating partners” and called for complete transparency over any future tests and investigations.
A Cook spokesperson said: “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 hotel in Hurghada on August 21, 2018. We have not yet seen the full report and we will need time for our own experts to review it.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of John and Susan Cooper. We will continue to offer every support to their daughter Kelly and the rest of their family.”