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Egypt

Egypt dismisses poisonous gas behind ‘suspicious’ deaths of tourists at Red Sea resort

John and Susan Cooper were found dead at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in circumstances their daughter called ‘suspicious’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 August, 2018, 8:57pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 August, 2018, 10:07pm

Egypt’s top prosecutor has dismissed speculation that the death of two British tourists in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada was caused by poisonous gas emissions in their hotel room.

Saturday’s statement by Nabil Sadeq said a technical team’s inspection of John and Susan Cooper’s room showed there were no toxic or harmful gas emissions or leaks.

It said his office was waiting for a forensic analysis of samples taken from the bodies.

John Cooper, 69, and his wife Susan Cooper, a 63-year old who worked for holiday company Thomas Cook in Britain, were staying at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel and died within hours of each other on Tuesday.

Their daughter said the circumstances were “suspicious”.

The Cooper couple’s deaths prompted Thomas Cook to evacuate all 301 of its customers from the hotel as a “precautionary measure”.

The company said circumstances of their deaths are “unclear” and that it received reports of “a raised level of illness among guests”.

The Coopers’ daughter Kelly Ormerod said both her parents fell ill suddenly, and her father had died in his hotel room while her mother passed away hours later in hospital.

“They had no illness, no stomach upset, no vomiting, no illness whatsoever – they were in perfect health when they went to bed,” she told Sky News.

“I watched them die before my very eyes and they had exactly the same symptoms.

“I believe something suspicious has gone on … something has happened in that room and caused them to be taken away from us.”

Ormerod added the family were in “utter shock” and “devastated”.

Thomas Cook said it was “deeply saddened” by the deaths, while adding the circumstances “remain unclear”.

Red Sea regional governor Ahmad Abdallah said there was no “criminal motive” behind the deaths.

The BBC said there were a total of 1,600 guests at the hotel.

The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism said a medical examination showed that John Cooper “experienced an extreme drop in the blood circulation and a sudden stop of the heart muscle”.

An Egyptian security official added he died “of a heart attack” before reaching hospital, while his wife passed away four hours later.

A health inspector examined Cooper’s body “and documented in his report that the cause of death is the halt of the blood circulation and her respiratory functions, and that there was no criminal suspicion,” according to the tourism ministry.

“She fell ill with fatigue and sadness and was transferred to the hospital and died,” the security official said, adding their bodies “have been handed over to the prosecution”.

Investigators from the local prosecutor’s office reviewed both bodies and the couple’s hotel room and found nothing abnormal, according to a judicial source.

“An (initial) autopsy found no signs of criminal violence or of a struggle,” the Egyptian Prosecutor General’s Office said.

“The necessary samples were taken so laboratory tests can be run to determine the cause of death.”

Dieter Geiger, general manager at Steigenberger Aqua Magic, said the hotel was “deeply saddened” by the incident.

He added: “The doctor’s preliminary report indicates that death was due to natural causes. There are no indications to support allegations of an increased incidence of illness at the hotel.”

Britain’s foreign ministry said it was assisting the deceased couple’s family.

Egypt’s key tourism industry has been recovering from a devastating blow in 2015 when jihadists bombed a Russian airliner carrying holidaymakers from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 on board.

Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse