Inquest opens five years after death of Burnley couple while on holiday in Egypt

  • A video report by Granada Reports Reporter Jennifer Buck

A hotel room where a couple stayed before suddenly failing ill and dying was next door to a room fumigated with chemicals to kill bed bugs just hours before, an inquest has heard.

John Cooper, 69 and Susan Cooper, 63, from Burnley, died suddenly while on a Thomas Cook holiday in Egypt on 21 August 2018.

They had been staying at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada with their daughter Kelly Ormerod and their three grandchildren.

On the first day of the two day inquest into their deaths, a German tourist told the court he reported a bed bug infestation in the room next door to the Coopers.

It was then treated with pesticide around lunchtime, with the Coopers falling ill in the early hours and dying the next day. The rooms had an adjoining door, but it was kept locked.

Giving evidence at the inquest at Blackburn Coroner's Court, Kelly described her parents as "energetic" and "healthy" and all loving their holiday in Egypt before they were suddenly struck down with illness.

Kelly told the coroners court that there was a strange smell in her Mum and Dad's room that was like acetone like someone had painted their nails.

The Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada.

The inquest heard how the Cooper's granddaughter Molly, who was 12 at the time, was staying in her grandparents room.

Molly, who has also been giving evidence, said the air conditioning was broken for the first four or five days when they got to the hotel and when it turned on, there was a strange smell, like cooking.

Once it was fixed, it still blew out hot air and a horrible smell that she described as a "foody type of smell".

She said: "Grandma opened the balcony door to see if the smell was coming from outside, but it wasn't."

She continued to say that her Grandma sprayed perfume to mask the smell and opened the balcony doors, but "the smell was there the second the air con was on".

The night before John and Susan Cooper died, Molly said she felt sick so her Grandad took her to her Mum's room.

The following day, Mr and Mrs Cooper were taken ill suddenly after reporting a strange smell in their room.

Kelly told the hearing: "He just literally slumped and sat on the corner of the bed and said: 'I'm really not well'."

She also said that her mother was in bed "groaning", with vomit in her hair and around the room, where she noticed a strange "heavy" smell.

Two doctors were summoned but they were in "panic mode", Ms Omerod said, as her parents further deteriorated and her father struggled to breathe.

John, 69, died in the hotel room while his wife Susan passed away in the ambulance on the way to hospital.

Kelly Ormerod remembers her parents at a memorial near their home Credit: ITV News

In 2018, Egypt's chief prosecutor Nabil Sadek said forensic examinations showed Mr Cooper suffered acute intestinal dysentery caused by E.coli.

The forensic exam also highlighted that Mrs Cooper suffered a complication linked to infection, also likely to have been caused by E.coli.

Their daughter Kelly never believed the theory and has been waiting five years for the inquest to take place.

However, a report presented by expert Dr Nick Gent, a senior medical advisor at Public Health England, suggested "infectious biological agent or toxic chemicals" were to blame.

She has previously spoken of her frustration in waiting for answers from the Egyptian authorities.

Kelly and her children now live in her mum and dad's house, close to a small woodland memorial to her parents, they are hoping the inquest finally brings them some answers.

The inquest is set to last two days.