Corfu deaths inquest hears from former Thomas Cook boss Fontenla-Novoa

Corfu deaths inquest hears from former Thomas Cook boss Fontenla-Novoa

Former Thomas Cook boss Manny Fontenla-Novoa has refused to answer questions put to him by a coroner about the deaths of two children from carbon monoxide poisoning while on holiday in Greece.

Fontenla-Novoa was giving evidence at the hearing in Wakefield into the deaths of Christi and Bobby Shepherd, aged seven and six, who died at a hotel complex in Corfu in October 2006.

Coroner David Hinchliff warned the travel firm’s ex-chief executive that he did not have to answer any questions which might incriminate him.

Mr Hinchliff then started to take the witness through a statement he made to police in 2009.

After confirming his name and that he is no longer chief executive, Mr Fontenla-Novoa was asked to confirm that he said in his statement: “The deaths of Robert and Christianne Shepherd are very significant events in the company’s history as they are the only customers of Thomas Cook to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Since their deaths in October 2006, this awful tragedy has been a major priority occupying my attention and also the attention of all my senior management and the board.”

He replied: “I decline to answer that.”

The coroner asked Mr Fontenla-Novoa to confirm that his statement said: “I believe every employee employed by Thomas Cook has been impacted by this tragedy and we have made every effort to consider the best interests of the family.”

He replied: “I decline to answer that.”

Continuing with the statement, the coroner said: “As a father myself, I have the utmost sympathy for the family.”

Mr Hinchliff asked: “That is still the case?”

Mr Fontenla-Novoa replied: “It is.”

According to the statement read by the coroner, Mr Fontenla-Novoa was group chief executive officer of Thomas Cook Group plc in 2009 but he said that in October 2006 he was chief executive of Thomas Cook UK and Ireland.

He said in his statement that Thomas Cook Group in 2009 was a FTSE 100 company with worldwide sales of £8.5 billion and 22.3 million customers.​

Invited to “look my clients in the eyes” and express his sympathy by Leslie Thomas QC, representing the children’s family, Mr Fontenla-Novoa said: “I deeply regret the incident that occurred.”


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