Thomas Cook has been severely criticised after admitting it received £3.5 million in compensation from a Greek hotel where two children were killed by a faulty boiler.
Neil Shepherd and Sharon Wood, the parents of Christi and Bobby Shepherd, condemned the size of its award — ten times the sum that they each received for the accident — and attacked the company’s failure to apologise properly.
The Mail on Sunday disclosed at the weekend that Thomas Cook had received the payment from a hotel in Corfu for loss of profits after the deaths in 2006. The children died from carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty boiler.
An inquest jury passed a verdict of unlawful killing last week and ruled that the travel company had “breached their duty of care”.
It emerged yesterday that Thomas Cook had written a letter to the family expressing fresh regret over the deaths, but the family criticised the company for releasing details of the letter to the media before they had received it themselves.
Mr Shepherd and Mrs Wood said they had only been shown the letter by reporters.
In a statement, they said: “It is disgraceful that after all we’ve been through Thomas Cook are still putting us last in the equation.
“We haven’t had this so-called letter of apology. We have been shown it by the press and feel it is an appalling continuation of Thomas Cook’s PR exercise. It’s not an apology for their wrongdoing but a general offer of sympathy.”
The children’s parents said that Thomas Cook’s apology “does not address the central issue that their safety management system failed and it does not apologise for that”.
They said: “Our compensation was accepted before the inquest in which Thomas Cook were found to have breached their duty of care.”
Three workers at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel — including the general manager — were found guilty of manslaughter by negligence after a criminal trial in 2010. Eight other people, including two Thomas Cook travel reps, were cleared.
A front page report in the Mail of Sunday followed by four pages inside the newspaper revealed that the travel company had gone to the High Court to seek damages from the hotel soon after the trial.
The sum awarded, believed to total £3.5 million, was to cover loss of profits owing to cancelled bookings, staff time spent on the incident and refunds and compensation paid by the company. The children’s parents each received about £350,000.
The jury foreman at last week’s inquest said that Thomas Cook had been misled by the hotel about its gas supply, but that the holiday company’s health and safety audit of the complex had been inadequate.
A Thomas Cook spokesman said chief executive, Peter Fankhauser, had sent a letter of apology to the family on Friday.
Thomas Cook said: "The Greek court, in 2010, found the deaths of Robert and Christianne were the result of unlawful action by hotel employees.
"We had the right to reclaim costs related to the trial from the hotel. The costs incurred by the company far exceed the amount that was received from the hotel."
The operator had earlier said it was "shocked and deeply saddened" by the tragedy.
"Thomas Cook recognises that the pain caused by this terrible accident will never go away and must be still very hard for friends and family to bear.”
The family’s local MP, Mary Creagh, called on Thomas Cook to make a renewed compensation offer to the parents.
Creagh, Labour MP for Wakefield, said: “People will be shocked and horrified that Thomas Cook has received such a huge sum out of the tragic deaths.
“No amount of compensation can ever console a parent for the loss of a child, but if Thomas Cook had a shred of decency it would immediately start talking to the parents about providing them with a just and proper settlement.”
*Separately Thomas Cook faced claims in the Sunday Times that a holidaymaker suffered a severe electric shock while staying in a hotel in Cuba.
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