20 May 2015

Lawyers blamed over Thomas Cook's handling of family tragedy

A legalistic approach taken by travel company Thomas Cook after two children died on holiday in Corfu has been blamed for a serious mishandling of the issue - leading to a public outcry, an apparent boycott of the company and a social media petition.

The two children, Bobby and Christi Shepherd, died of carbon monoxide poisoining - due to a faulty boiler - while on a Thomas Cook holiday in 2006. The chief executive then said that the company had 'nothing to apologise for'. It has recently emerged that Thomas Cook received £3.5m in compensation from the owners of the property where the children died - and where their father and step-mother nearly died. The sum the company received is ten times the amount that the family was given in compensation by the property owners.

Protecting the legal position

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme, a former senior employee of Thomas Cook who went on to chair the industry association ABTA, John McEwan, said that Thomas Cook was 'a very caring company' but that its handling of these events had been 'quite poor'. He said: 'My personal view is that they have been guided by their lawyers, by the legal advice they have been given...They have been very clear in trying to protect their position from a legal perspective. What's been lost sight of is the human tragedy here.'

Unofficial boycott

The Thomas Cook share price has been sliding this week, Google searches are down 18% (an indication that holidaymakers are unofficially boycotting it) and it has been subject to widespread condemnation. Sources: Today programme and SkyNews