Thomas Cook chief executive Peter Fankhauser made a personal apology yesterday to the parents of Christianne and Robert Shepherd who died on holiday in Corfu.
Fankhauser then went on television to express his “deep regret” at not having apologised sooner.
The lawyer for parents Neil Shepherd and Sharon Wood, QC Leslie Thomas, said the Thomas Cook boss gave “a sincere and heartfelt apology”.
Speaking on Sky News following his meeting with the children’s parents, Fankhauser said: “I apologised for what I did not do right in the last days and I apologised for what Thomas Cook did not do in the last nine years.
“I regret it deeply. I should have done it when I took over in November 2014. It was my biggest mistake.”
The children, aged six and seven, died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a wrongly installed and badly maintained boiler outside their bungalow at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel in Corfu in 2006.
Fankhauser described the meeting with parents Neil Shepherd and Sharon Wood as “very intense”. He said: “I really just wanted to listen to them, to hear it from them. It was heart breaking.”
Asked what they had discussed, he said: “We agreed the family would inform [the media]. I want to avoid that it could come across as a PR story for Thomas Cook.”
The children’s parents told a press conference that Thomas Cook would make donations to a number of chosen charities. The company will also take care of the family’s legal costs.
Sharon Wood said: “Nothing can give us back our children. We can’t change the past. We asked Thomas Cook to push forward our request to demolish the bungalow [where the children died].”
The Thomas Cook boss was asked how one of three people convicted by a Greek court for the children’s manslaughter in 2010 had recently returned to work at a hotel in Crete used by the company.
Fankhauser said he had informed the parents after demanding the man be fired.
He said: “We sent our head of risk and audit out to Crete this morning and are investigating where all three [of those convicted] are working.”
Fankhauser added: “I want to do the right things. I decided I wanted to stop talking about the family [with the media] and talk with the family, and I got the chance that I could meet the family today.”
He said: “We are engaging an independent health and safety expert to assess and report on our health and safety processes throughout [the group].”
Asked about the impact Thomas Cook’s handling of the tragedy might have on bookings, Fankhauser said: “That was not my focus in the last days. My focus was to meet the family and to move on from there.”
Fankhauser was also asked if he would resign over the issue. He said: “I will not resign. I said I am going to do the right things and I am doing the right things. I want to make Thomas Cook the best I can.”
He added: “I am convinced I still have the confidence of shareholders.”
Fankhauser met the parents after issuing a public apology ahead of announcing Thomas Cook’s half-year results on Wednesday.
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