'It’s hard because you can’t move on with your daily life - for five years, you’re reliving what happened,' the daughter of a couple who died from carbon monoxide in Egypt told ITV News Midland Correspondent Ben Chapman.
Words by ITV News Nations and Regions News Editor Jade Liversidge
Kelly Ormerod was on a family holiday in Egypt with her two children and her parents, John and Susan Cooper, when the couple suddenly died in 2018.
The family were staying at a five star hotel, the Steigenberger Aqua Magic, in the Red Sea resort of Herghada for a two-week holiday.
What should have been a time for creating special memories became a long and painful fight for justice.
I first interviewed Ms Ormerod five years ago, just a few weeks after she returned from Egypt – adamant their deaths were being covered up.
"There's something that has caused them to die," Ms Ormerod said speaking in 2018, "and it isn't heart failure, they were fit and healthy.
"If we didn't go on that holiday they'd still be here today."
At the time of the Coopers' deaths, Egyptian officials said it was the "normal death of an English old man and his wife" due to heart failure.
A few weeks later, Egypt's chief prosecutor said tests showed that e.coli bacteria were behind their deaths and they had tested the air and water at the hotel and found nothing unusual.
But a pre-inquest hearing in 2019 heard an expert report suggested the couple's deaths were caused by neither radiation, natural causes, carbon monoxide nor food poisoning – of which there had been a rise in cases at the hotel that summer.
It wasn’t until last week, after years of battling to get information from the Egyptian authorities, that a coroner finally concluded Ms Ormerod's fears.
That a room next to Mr and Mrs Cooper's had been sprayed for bedbugs with a pesticide mixed with a toxic chemical. They died of carbon monoxide poisoning after breathing it in.
Speaking to ITV News on Monday, Ms Ormerod relives the horrors in that hotel room.
"Those images won’t ever go away, of what I saw that day. You don’t expect your parents to die in front of you within hours of one another, and my initial instinct was, it was carbon monoxide," she says.
“The shock is that it should never have happened. That’s the shock and the anger I get now. This could have been prevented quite easily.
"I think from day one it has been a bit of a cover up. They were digging their heels in hoping we’d go away and I wasn’t going away, I was going nowhere.”
The consequences could have been even more tragic.
Ms Ormerod's daughter Molly, who was then 12, had been sleeping in her grandparents’ room – but relocated to her mum’s after feeling sick in the middle of the night.
“That’s something that’s quite hard to comprehend. But if she hadn’t woken up that evening, I’d be dealing with three casualties," she said.
After several attempts of making contact with the hotel during the inquest, the hotel replied a few days after it’s conclusion.
It told us that “thorough inspections” had taken place at the time, and a “full investigation found no issue of concern”.
It added it “remains committed to the highest standards of cleanliness, health and safety.”
Ms Ormerod now has answers over the death, but she calls for tour operators to take more responsibility for safety in hotels abroad.
'I don’t want this to be swept under the carpet and then in 10 or 15 years' time, something else happens - another tragedy to another family'
“Ultimately they’re selling package holidays and they need to know what they’re selling," she says.
"You go away as a family putting your life in their hands, to then come back home with two people not with us. So they need to get more robust in what they’re doing.”
The family’s holiday was booked with Thomas Cook, which collapsed in 2019 and has since been taken over.
Ms Ormerod hopes that having the truth at last about what happened here will allow her to finally begin to grieve.
She said: “My mum and dad died, so that will never go away. The cause of death, I’m glad we found it, but it won’t make me feel any better.”
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