Mystery deepens over British couple's death at hotel in Egypt
London - A devasted daughter who watched her parents die suddenly on a family holiday in Egypt on Friday declared: ‘Something suspicious has gone on.’
As Thomas Cook evacuated more than 300 British guests from the Red Sea hotel where John and Susan Cooper collapsed, Kelly Ormerod, 40, said: ‘I watched them both die before my very eyes and they had exactly the same symptoms.’
Egyptian authorities have put the deaths down to natural causes and dismissed the double tragedy as the ‘normal death of an English old man and his wife’.
The Cooper family, from Burnley, Lancashire, were on a ten-day Thomas Cook package holiday when Mr Cooper, 69, died in his room at the five-star Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada on Tuesday morning. Mrs Cooper, 63, died six hours later after being taken to the hospital.
There were fears the couple might have suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty air conditioning unit. Thomas Cook insisted there was ‘no evidence’ for this.
Mrs Ormerod, who was staying in a different part of the hotel with her children, said: ‘On the Monday evening, both my parents were in good health and in great spirits.
‘When we woke up [on Tuesday morning] my mum hadn’t come down to sit on the sunbeds so I went to knock on the door and saw that they were both very unwell.
‘It was about 11 am when I went to the bedroom. They said they were extremely ill and needed help.
‘Medical attention was brought to the room but they couldn’t save Dad, they just couldn’t help him and he died there in the room before my eyes.
‘They then took my mum off to the hospital with myself. She was alive in the ambulance and she was alive when we approached the hospital. While she was at hospital, she died.’
Mrs Ormerod, who had taken her own children to Egypt too, told Sky News: ‘I believe something suspicious has gone on. I don’t believe anyone has entered the room, but something has happened in that room and caused them to be taken away from us.’
Describing the ‘horrendous ordeal’ to Lancashire-based radio station 2BR, she added: ‘Mum and Dad meant the world to me and the children, and we are in utter shock over what has happened and what is happening. Prior to going on holiday, they had no health problems at all. My focus now is on getting my children home. All we want is answers about what has happened and a cause of death.’
There was also speculation yesterday that the Coopers were struck down with food poisoning as ‘at least 40’ other hotel guests have complained of being ill.
Mrs Ormerod said Thomas Cook had been ‘amazing’, adding: ‘I can’t praise them enough for what they’ve done’. But she described being in limbo, saying: ‘I need to keep a strong and focused mind to get myself and my children out of this country and back to the UK. I am basically at the beck and call of the authorities. They have given me no indication of when I will leave.’
Soon after the deaths, Dr Maged Eladawy, the head of Hurghada hospital, said Mrs Cooper – a long-serving member of staff at Thomas Cook’s Burnley branch – had ‘died from grief’ after her husband’s sudden death.
Yesterday the governor of Hurghada, Ahmed Abdallah, said Mr Cooper, a building firm boss, had ‘clearly suffered a heart attack’ and added: ‘We found a bag of medicine at his room. He suffered many health issues.
‘His wife died two or three hours after him. It could be due to neural shock or she might have taken something [to end her life].’
He said the fears over carbon monoxide were ‘not logical’ because the hotel had a central air conditioning system and ‘if there is a leak it would have affected all the 2,500 guests’.
Local officials insisted there were ‘no criminal suspicions’. A statement issued by the Red Sea governorate was entitled: ‘Normal death of an English old man and his wife in Hurghada city’.
It said Mr Cooper had died at 11 am and a medical examination showed ‘he suffered a sharp drop in blood circulation and a sudden stop in the heart muscle’.
It added: ‘The cause of death is a sudden failure in the heart muscle and respiratory failure’.
The statement said that at 4 pm Mrs Cooper ‘in a state of fainting’ was transferred to hospital where doctors fought to save her life for 30 minutes before declaring her dead at 5.12pm. It added: ‘The cause of death is a drop of blood circulation and respiratory functions with no criminal suspicions.’
But Mrs Ormerod, who lives with her husband Daren, 50, and children a mile away from her parents’ home in the village of Worsthorne, is so convinced something is wrong she has demanded a second autopsy which will likely be completed this weekend.
Usually, in cases of Britons dying abroad, there will be an inquest in the UK too.
Thomas Cook said it had found no evidence of carbon monoxide or food poisoning but that it ‘doesn’t rule anything in or out’. A spokesman said: ‘We are deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of two of our customers.’
Last night friends paid tribute to Mr and Mrs Cooper. Alban Barker, 70, said: ‘John was very talkative. He was just so chatty and full of life. We are devastated to hear the news.’
He added: ‘I bumped into them the other week and told him, “It’s about time you retired”, and he just laughed and said, “I’m fine, I’m fit enough”. They were both working and were quite fit.’
Another devastated friend said: ‘They were the loveliest couple you could wish to meet. They were devoted to each other.’
Mr Cooper, a clay pigeon shooting enthusiast who ran building company, JJ Cooper, was a Freemason of some 23 years.
The Masonic Lodge of East Lancashire said: ‘He was a tireless supporter of many projects and fundraising events and his very “hands-on” approach to our work and larger-than-life personality has meant that his death has had a huge impact on so many of our members.’
A neighbour of Mrs Ormerod said: ‘She is beside herself with grief.
‘She was so close to both her parents, particularly her mum. They are well known and much loved in the community.’
The Foreign Office said: ‘We continue to support the family and remain in contact with Thomas Cook.’
Egypt, which relies heavily on tourism, has seen visitor numbers plummet by 30 per cent since the 2011 Arab Spring brought security threats and civil unrest.