Full and fearless investigation into the deaths of Horbury children

A coroner has promised a “full and fearless” investigation into their deaths of two Horbury school children who died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 28th February 2014, 4:36 pm
Paul Wood, stepfather, and Sharon Wood, mother of Christianne Shepherd, seven, and her brother Robert, six,  who were gassed to death in a holiday tragedy in Corfu.
Paul Wood, stepfather, and Sharon Wood, mother of Christianne Shepherd, seven, and her brother Robert, six, who were gassed to death in a holiday tragedy in Corfu.

Christianne Shepherd, aged seven, and her six-year-old brother Robert, died while on holiday in Corfu in October 2006 with their father, Neil,and his then partner, now wife Ruth.

They had been on a half-term break at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel.

Tour operator Thomas Cook was cleared of responsibilty in relation to the deaths of the two children and awarded £1m in damages by the High Court in 2013.

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Mr Shepherd and his wife and the children’s mother Sharon and stepfather Paul Wood, all attended a pre-inquest review hearing, in Wakefield, ahead of a full inquest hearing which is due to be heard next January.

During today’s hearing, solicitor Peter Stewart, representing holiday firm Thomas Cook, applied for the inquest to discontinued.

He argued that the case had been fully investigated during a criminal trial held in Greece in 2010.

But coroner David Hinchliff said: “I feel it is not appropriate for me, at this stage, to consider discontinuing or abandoning these proceedings. It is important to carry out a very full, fearless and thorough investigation into the deaths of these two children.”

Mr Stewart also argued that the inquest should not be held in front of a jury. But the coroner said without a jury, the inquest could be perceived as being biased.

Speaking afterwards Mrs Wood criticised the government for refusing to grant Legal Aid to continue with the proceedings.

She said they could not afford to be legally represented without it.

Mrs Wood said: “Today, Thomas Cook tried to halt the inquest into our childrens’ deaths, and deny us our chance to have the full facts dealt with in a British court room. Our need for legal representation is now urgent. We call on the government to help us and ensure that as grieving parents we are not left alone to represent ourselves.

“We believe that there is an exceptional and over whelming public interest for the lessons of our tragedy to be learned so that no other family suffer as we have.”

In 2010 hotel manager Georgios Chrysikopoulos, head of the hotel technical department Petros Stoyiannos and hotel electrician Christos Louvros were each sentenced to seven years after being found guilty of manslaughter by negligence.

They tampered with a fume prevention device which was designed to prevent the build up of lethal carbon monoxide.

Two Thomas Cook employees were also cleared of the same offences.

Mary Creagh MP said: “I have been liaising with the Ministry of Justice on the family’s application for Legal Aid and supporting them in their application to appeal against the decision not to award it.

“They believe there is not enough public interest in this case to justify funding Legal Aid - a decision I think most people would find absolutely diabolical.”