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Ex-Thomas Cook boss snubs questions over gas deaths horror

By Dave Higgens

A former Thomas Cook boss has refused to answer questions put to him by a coroner about the deaths of two children from carbon monoxide poisoning while on holiday in Greece.

Manny Fontenla-Novoa was giving evidence at the hearing in Wakefield into the deaths of Christi and Bobby Shepherd, aged seven and six, who died at a hotel complex in Corfu in October 2006.

Coroner David Hinchliff warned the travel firm's ex-chief executive that he did not have to answer any questions that might incriminate him.

Mr Hinchliff then started to take the witness through a statement he made to police in 2009.

After confirming his name and that he is no longer chief executive, Mr Fontenla-Novoa was asked to confirm that he said in his statement: "The deaths of Robert and Christianne Shepherd are very significant events in the company's history as they are the only customers to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

"Since their deaths in October 2006, this awful tragedy has been a major priority occupying my attention and also the attention of all my senior management and the board." He replied: "I decline to answer that."

Continuing with the statement, the coroner said: "As a father myself, I have the utmost sympathy for the family."

Invited to "look my clients in the eyes" and express his sympathy by Leslie Thomas QC, representing the children's family, Mr Fontenla-Novoa said: "I deeply regret the incident that occurred."

He turned to look at Christi and Bobby's parents as he said the words and repeated them when he was asked to speak louder.

The children's mother, Sharon Wood, said from the public gallery: "Speak up for yourself, then."

The family were sitting about five metres away, just behind their legal representatives.

Th case continues

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