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Corfu carbon monoxide death family's fight for justice

4 May 10 18:40 GMT

By Samantha Haines
BBC News

It was a half-term family holiday that turned to tragedy.

Christianne Shepherd, seven, and her brother Bobby, six, were in the middle of a week-long break in Corfu with their father and his girlfriend when their young lives were cut short.

The children, from Horbury, West Yorkshire, died from carbon monoxide poisoning after fumes from a gas boiler room seeped into the family's villa in October 2006.

Their father, Neil Shepherd, and his partner, Ruth Beatson, were also overcome by the fumes. They recovered after spending several days in a coma.

For the past three-and-a-half years Mr Shepherd, Ms Beatson, the children's mother Sharon Wood and her husband Paul have waited for somebody to be held to account for Christianne and Bobby's deaths.

Now three of the 11 people who faced trial over the tragedy have been found guilty of causing manslaughter by negligence.

They include the manager of the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel in Gouvia, where the family were staying.

Thomas Cook holiday reps Richard Carson, 27, and Nicola Gibson, 25, were found not guilty of manslaughter by negligence.

A 12th defendant was discharged earlier.

The parents' wait for justice has been a long and painful one.

Mr Shepherd and Ms Beatson have had to repeatedly relive the night of 25 October to police and to the Corfu court.

During the trial Mr Shepherd broke down as he told how Christianne started to be sick shortly after she had gone to bed.

"When she was being sick I felt sick myself and was immediately sick," he said.

"I can't remember anything after me being sick because I just passed out within a few seconds."

Mr Shepherd told the court the family was given no safety advice regarding gas appliances and did not think to ask for any as they had previously checked that the accommodation was Corgi-registered.

The trial heard evidence from a mechanical engineer who said the boiler was the worst he had seen in 50 years.

Harry Rogers said the leak was caused by a wired-out gas valve, a bypassed thermostat, the lack of a flue and chimney and a gap between the bungalow and the outhouse where the boiler was contained.

He likened the boiler to a loaded gun, saying: "You can play with a gun for so long and it may not go off, but in certain circumstances someone will get killed."

Christianne and Bobby's parents had long campaigned in Corfu for an investigation and trial into the deaths. Their actions made them both well-known and not always popular with the locals.

BBC reporter Jenny Hill said the Corfu economy relied heavily on tourism and the publicity surrounding the case was "unwelcome" on the island.

But the family vowed to go back to Corfu again and again, until they could leave with what they said was "justice" for the children.

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