Egypt death couple ‘exposed to chemicals’

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption John and Susan Cooper died while staying at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada

A British couple who died in Egypt may have been exposed to “an infectious biological agent or toxic chemicals” in their hotel room, a court has heard.

John Cooper, 69, and his wife Susan, 63, from Burnley, died suddenly in August while on holiday in Hurghada.

The findings of an interim report on their deaths by Public Health England (PHE) were revealed at a pre-inquest hearing in Preston on Wednesday.

However, a coroner said there was not yet enough information for an inquest.

The original Egyptian post-mortem examination said the couple’s deaths were linked to E. Coli, but a British post-mortem proved inconclusive.

A preliminary report from Dr Nick Gent suggested neither radiation, natural causes, carbon monoxide poisoning nor food poisoning caused the couple’s deaths.

While the cause of death is still unknown, Dr Gent told the court it was most likely exposure to an “infectious biological agent or toxic chemicals”.

Image copyright Kelly Ormerod
Image caption Kelly Ormerod, pictured with her mother, said her parents were healthy the day before they died

However, British authorities have still not received all the medical and other reports from Egypt needed to definitively establish the cause of death, the court heard.

The government has made 13 unsuccessful attempts to obtain documents from Egypt, including meetings involving the country’s ministers of foreign affairs and tourism.

Speaking outside court, the couple’s daughter Kelly Ormerod said the lack of Egyptian assistance was “immoral” and its authorities had shown her “no compassion or humanity”.

She added: “To be on holiday where happy memories are meant to be made and cherished, tragedy struck our family.

“Our whole world came crashing down, right in front of my very eyes. This should have never happened.”

Mr and Mrs Cooper had noticed an acetone-type smell when they returned to their room on 20 August, the court heard.

Their granddaughter, who had been staying with them, had moved rooms to stay with Ms Ormerod because the smell was making her feel unwell.

A German tourist, believed to have been in the room next door, checked in and immediately checked out.

Image caption Susan Cooper worked for Thomas Cook in Burnley

Hotel records showed housekeeping had been called to the Coopers’ room at least three times on the day before the couple died and the room next door had been fumigated.

Coroner Dr James Adeley asked lawyers representing the hotel and Thomas Cook for a raft of documents ahead of a full inquest.

He also requested the hotel’s air conditioning maintenance logs, as there were discrepancies in the records he had received.

The couple had asked for the air conditioning in their room to be fixed four day before their deaths, the logs showed.

A further pre-inquest hearing will be held at a date yet to be fixed.

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