1. ITV Report

'Something suspicious' behind deaths of 'healthy' British couple in Egypt, says daughter

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner

The daughter of a British couple who died at a resort hotel in Egypt believes there is "something suspicious" behind their deaths.

John and Susan Cooper, from Burnley, Lancashire, were "fit and healthy" before their holiday and in "perfect health" just hours before being taken ill, daughter Kelly Ormerod said, despite officials claiming the mother and father died of natural causes.

Kelly Ormerod, who was holidaying with her parents John, 69 and Susan Cooper, 63, plus her three children, said the family was in "utter shock" because the pair "had no health problems at all".

She told Sky News: "I watched them die before my very eyes and they had exactly the same symptoms.

"I believe something suspicious has gone on... something has happened in that room and caused them to be taken away from us."

Thomas Cook said it had "received further reports of a raised level of illness among guests" and as a safety precaution would remove all of its 300 customers from the hotel.

It said: “Safety is always our first priority, so as a precautionary measure we have taken a decision to remove all our customers from this hotel.”

Kelly Ormerod (right) with her mum Susan Cooper.

In a statement to Lancashire-based radio station 2BR, Mrs Ormerod said: "What I want is to clear up some of what is being reported. We have no cause of death, a post-mortem is under way.

"Dad never went to hospital – he died in the hotel room in front of me. I went to hospital in the ambulance with Mum, where she passed away."

The travel operator said there was no evidence to suggest the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, which had been reported as a possible factor.

The company said the circumstances of the deaths remain unclear, adding that it has sent 24 staff to support their customers in the hotel.

The couple had been staying at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel. Credit: via Thomas Cook

Janine Traviss, who stayed at the same hotel three weeks ago, said that her husband Lee collapsed after a bout of sickness and diarrhea nine days into their holiday.

She was horrified to hear of Mr and Mrs Cooper's death.

"It's heartbreaking," she said. "When I remember back and to see how poorly Lee was over those 48 hours, you do sit and think 'Crikey, that could have been us'."

Some guests at the hotel have expressed anger at the lack of information they have been given.

Janette Rawlingson, who was staying at the hotel when the incident occurred and is due to fly home Friday, told ITV News: "Hurghada runs on tourism so we're not completely confident, or I'm not, that we're getting the complete truth from the Egyptian authorities as to what's happened."

In a Skype interview Ms Rawlingson said she's "absolutely gutted with Thomas Cook" and won't book another holiday through the travel agent.

She said: "Their lack of corporate responsibility and contingency planning is disgusting and never will I book a holiday with Thomas Cook ever again."

In a social media post, Ms Ormerod said she her main focus is returning to the UK.

"Due to the serious accusations I have made, at present we are being held in the country, the authorities are refusing to let us return to the UK," she wrote.

The Times reported that the Ms Ormerod said she believes they could have been killed by a faulty air conditioning unit, but the Governor of Hurghada, Ahmed Abdallah, told the paper that her claim "was not logical" as such a leak would have affected all of the guests at the hotel.

The governor added: "Also, we took a sample of the food of the hotel for testing. But if there is a problem with the food it would have affected other people."

Governor Abdallah insisted the couple died of natural causes.

He told the Telegraph: “The husband fell sick and was taken to hospital, where he died. About three hours later his wife had a shock and died."

Kelly Ormerod said that she has not been able to fly back to the UK. Credit: ITV News

A spokesman for Thomas Cook said: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of two of our customers that were staying in the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada, Egypt.

“The circumstances of their deaths are still unclear. We have also received further reports of a raised level of illness among guests."

Ms Ormerod thanked Thomas Cook, saying they "have been amazing", and said her focus is "on getting my children home".

She added: "All we want is answers about what has happened and a cause of death."

Alban Barker, who lives close to the Coopers’ home and knew Mr Cooper for around 30 years, paid tribute to a “really great couple”.

He said Mr Cooper was a clay pigeon shooting enthusiast and had carried out extensive building work for him, his daughters and friends, and was an “extremely good, very reliable builder”.

The 70-year-old said: “They were Burnley season ticket holders and used to come into the local pub after games for a chat. I’ll be going tonight and the mood may be quite sombre.

“I bumped into them the other week and told him, ‘It’s about time you retired’ and he just laughed and said, ‘I’m fine, I’m fit enough’.

“He looked well, he was a strong man. They were both working and were quite fit people, his is a physical job.

“They both worked jolly hard and used to go on holiday regularly. They seemed to go everywhere together.”

The couple had booked their holiday through Thomas Cook. Credit: PA

The Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel was last audited by Thomas Cook in late July 2018 and received an overall score of 96%.

On Thursday, Thomas Cook said it had made arrangements for customers who chose to come home to fly back on Friday.

A spokesman added: "While we understand this is upsetting for those on holiday, we believe this is the right thing to do.

“We continue to work closely with the hotel and are supporting the authorities with their investigations."

Thomas Cook is transferring customers from the hotel or arranging flights back to the UK.

Thomas Cook customers due to travel to the hotel in the next four weeks will be offered an alternative option, the company said.

Dieter Geiger, general manager at Aqua Magic, said he was "deeply saddened" by the deaths.

"The doctor's preliminary report indicates that death was due to natural causes," he said.

"There are no indications to support allegations of an increased incidence of illness at the hotel. Such rash speculations should urgently be put aside out of respect for the family members of the deceased persons and for other guests."

Mrs Cooper worked at Thomas Cook’s Burnley branch, which was closed on Thursday.