UK

Thomas Cook Finally Apologises Over Corfu Holiday Children Killed By Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

20/05/2015 10:30 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 16:59 BST

The boss of Thomas Cook has said he is "deeply sorry" over the deaths of two young children killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in Corfu and apologised for the company's handling of the incident.

Peter Fankhauser, chief executive of the travel firm, which is facing a public backlash over the way it has treated the family since the tragedy, told the Financial Times on Wednesday: "Look, I'm deeply sorry about the deaths of these two children.

"As a father I really can only express my deepest sorrow.

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Fankhauser appearing via webcast on Wednesday

"It is also clear to me that in the past nine years the company could have handled its relationship with the family better and treated them with more respect and for that I am sorry."

Bobby and Christi, aged six and seven, died when they were overcome by fumes from a faulty boiler as they stayed in a bungalow in the grounds of a Corfu hotel with their father, Neil Shepherd and his partner, now wife, Ruth, in October 2006.

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Sharon Wood makes a statement with Paul Wood (right, husband) and Neil Shepherd (left, ex-husband) outside Wakefield Coroner's Court after the inquest on Monday

Last week, an inquest jury concluded that Thomas Cook breached its duty of care to the family and returned verdicts of unlawful killing.

Since then, Mr Shepherd and the children's mother, Sharon Wood, have criticised Thomas Cook for failing to apologise to them.

Mrs Wood has said: "I will always hold Thomas Cook responsible for their deaths."

Some customers have threatened to boycott the package holiday firm after it emerged it had received around £3 million compensation from the hotel chain responsible for the incident.

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Christi and Bobby, who were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning

Thomas Cook said earlier this week it would donate £1.5 million to children's charity Unicef, while the remaining £1.5 million went to its insurers for underwriting legal fees.

But on Twitter, the incident and donation were branded a 'PR disaster'.

Fankhauser has pledged to apologise directly to the family of Bobby and Christi Shepherd, from Horbury, near Wakefield, for the company's handling of the incident.

"It's absolutely clear that there are things we as a company could have done better during the last nine years. In particular, how we have conducted our relationship with the family," he said.

"You will understand that I'm not going to repeat the mistakes of the past by talking about the family in public and my intention is to see how we can help them move on with their lives."