NEWS

Corfu poisoning trial begins

A court on Corfu yesterday heard how two British children died in their hotel room from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning during a family holiday, as the trial of 11 people, including two former employees of the Thomas Cook tour operator, went on trial on the Ionian island yesterday. The 11 defendants, including the manager of the Louis Corcyra Beach hotel, face charges of manslaughter through negligence after Christianne and Robert Shepherd, aged 7 and 6, died in October 2006 from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning due to a faulty natural gas boiler next to their room. The children had been on holiday with their father, Neil Shepherd, and his partner Ruth Beatson, who is now his wife. Shepherd told the court that the children began to feel ill soon after going to bed. He and Beatson spent several days in comas after being found unconscious in their room. «About 10 minutes after we had gone to bed, Christi sat up and started being sick,» said Shepherd, from West Yorkshire. He explained how he began to feel ill after getting up to tend to his daughter. «I can’t remember anything after me being sick because I just passed out within seconds.» Shepherd and Beatson were taken to a hospital in Athens and, when they regained consciousness, they discovered that both children had died in the Corfu hotel room. Shepherd explained that the family had not been given any safety advice regarding gas appliances but had checked in the holiday brochures that all the appliances met the necessary British standards. «You’re going on holiday, the last thing going through your mind is not being safe,» he said. «You just presume that you’re safe; you presume that the tour operator has just done the checks so that you can just go away and enjoy your holiday and not have your children die.» The two ex-Thomas Cook employees, Richard Carson and Nicola Gibson, deny liability and the travel agency issued a statement supporting their innocence. The trial is due to resume on February 17.