Chemicals or biological agent ‘may have killed UK couple in Egypt’

A British couple who died on holiday at a hotel in Egypt may have suffered the effects of an infectious biological agent or toxic chemicals, a coroner’s court has heard.

John Cooper, 69, and his wife, Susan, 63, died suddenly on 21 August last year after becoming ill while staying at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic hotel in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada.

A preliminary expert report from Dr Nick Gent, a senior medical adviser at Public Health England, suggested that neither radiation, natural causes, carbon monoxide nor food poisoning caused the couple’s deaths.

While the cause of death is still unknown, Gent’s view pointed towards an “infectious biological agent or toxic chemicals” as the most likely explanation.

A pre-inquest hearing at Preston coroner’s court was told on Wednesday that British authorities still had not received all relevant medical reports from the Egyptian authorities to establish a cause of death.

The hearing was told there had been 13 requests from British consular staff for reports from the Egyptian authorities, including from the UK ambassador to Egypt, but the documents had not been handed over.

The couple’s daughter, Kelly Ormerod, who was on holiday with her parents and her own daughter at the time of the deaths, criticised the “lack of co-operation” by the Egyptian authorities.

Outside court, she said: “I’m not surprised by the lack of co-operation from the Egyptian authorities. From the tragic incident of both my parents dying to today, no compassion or humanity has been shown.

“My aspiration now is to find who is responsible for the deaths of my mum and dad. 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.”

Neither of the couple were known to have any serious medical conditions before they left the UK for the holiday on 13 August.

The pair had noticed an acetone-type smell in their room on the evening before they died.

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

A previous report by Egyptian authorities said the deaths were caused by E coli bacteria, but a separate Home Office postmortem had proved inconclusive.

Thomas Cook evacuated 300 guests from the hotel as a precaution following the deaths.

source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/01/chemicals-or-biological-agent-may-have-killed-uk-couple-in-egypt

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