Daughter's battle for justice after parents killed by bedbug spray

‘I’m still in so much pain’: Grieving daughter recounts her five-year battle for justice after her parents were killed by bedbug spray while on family holiday in Egypt

A British woman whose parents were killed by an insecticide spray while holidaying in Egypt says she is still reeling from the tragedy five years on, which Egyptian investigators tried to blame on E. coli.

Kelly Ormerod’s parents John and Susan Cooper died of carbon monoxide poisoning after the room next to theirs at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada was fumigated with a pesticide known as Lambda for a bed bug infestation in 2018.

The spray was diluted with dichloromethane, all-but-banned outside of industrial use in the UK and European Union because it produces carbon monoxide when broken down by the body. The fumigated room was only sealed with masking tape. 

Egyptian investigators blamed her parents’ deaths on E. coli, and doctors even told her there may have been a suicide pact – but a coroner ruled they died as a result of exposure to the dangerous chemical, finally giving Ms Ormerod some answers.

The tragedy might have also claimed the life of Ms Ormerod’s daughter Molly, then 12, if the Coopers hadn’t taken her to her mother’s room after she complained of feeling ill and a ‘funny smell’.

John Cooper, 69, and his wife Susan, 63, pictured outside another hotel, died from carbon monoxide poisoning in August 2018

Kelly Ormerod, who has spent five years searching for conclusive answers as to how her parents died in Egypt

The couple died during their stay at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada, Egypt

Kelly Ormerod with her mother Susan, who died in hospital hours after her husband following exposure to dichloromethane

Speaking to the Sunday People, Ms Ormerod said: ‘I still suffer from the trauma of seeing them die in such a dreadful way. Our family is broken without them.

‘I’m still in so much pain over the thought their deaths could have been prevented but I’m glad we now finally have the answers.

‘We’ve been given closure in the sense that we know how this happened but I don’t feel any better. It should never have happened in the first place.’

READ MORE: Husband and wife enjoying ‘brilliant’ holiday in Egypt died of carbon monoxide poisoning after room next door was fumigated for bedbugs

The nightmare began on August 20 2018, a week into the Thomas Cook trip, as Ms Ormerod and her family went to bed at the Red Sea resort, which her parents had stayed at just a few months before.

Unknown to them, the room next to the Coopers’ had been sprayed with a pesticide diluted with dichloromethane, which is used as an aerosol propellant, after new guests reported spotting bedbugs.

But the morning after the Coopers – builder John, 69, and Thomas Cook foreign exchange cashier Susan, 63 – escorted Molly to her mother’s room, the mum knew that something was wrong after they failed to come down for breakfast.

Knocking at their door, she found her parents seriously ill, vomiting and struggling to stay conscious. Doctors were summoned, but Mr Cooper died on the floor of the hotel room and Mrs Cooper died in hospital hours later.

At the hospital, Ms Ormerod said doctors told her they believed there had been a suicide pact – a suggestion she described as ‘devastating’.

She then flew home – bravely acting as a pallbearer at her parents’ funeral – and has since battled for answers. Egyptian investigators claimed the tragedy was caused by E. coli, but Ms Ormerod challenged that and a Home Office investigation concluded they had been killed by carbon monoxide poisoning. 

An inquest earlier this month backed up the Home Office conclusions, ruling that the Coopers had been exposed to excessive levels of dichloromethane after experts said the levels used had ‘rapidly exceed(ed)’ legal UK exposure limits.

German holidaymaker Dominiki Bibi had been due to stay in the room next to the Coopers’ before the bedbugs were discovered.

He told the inquest: ‘On entering I immediately noticed a funny smell, like that of mould or damp. There was a lot of bed bugs in the bed and under it.’

John and Susan Cooper were described during the inquest as fit and healthy for their age

Susan Cooper had been to the same hotel in April that year and described it as ‘fabulous’

Kelly Ormerod reads a statement outside Preston Coroner’s Court after the ruling that her parents died due to exposure to dichloromethane

The room next to the Coopers’ had been fumigated for bedbugs – and sealed with masking tape (stock image)

Mr Bibi later saw a pest controller enter the room before sealing it up with masking tape, adding: ‘I would not say the job was very professional.’ 

Home Office pathologist Dr Charles Wilson gave a cause of death as carbon monoxide toxicity. Mr Cooper was also suffering from heart disease, which contributed to his death. 

Dr Wilson said of their deaths during the inquest: ‘It’s exactly what I would expect to see in people poisoned by carbon monoxide.’

READ MORE Panic as bedbugs found crawling in the soft furnishings at west London library forcing elderly people and children to be evacuated

Dr James Adeley, senior coroner for Lancashire sitting at Preston Coroner’s Court, concluded: ‘For deaths such as John and Susan Cooper to occur in a foreign country and move with such rapidity over a short period of time from good health to death is frightening. 

‘However, in this case, for their family and friends to have to watch them die would have been a truly terrible experience.’ 

Ms Ormerod told the Sunday People she does not plan to sue the hotel, wanting to put the experience behind her. She and her children will instead take some of her parents ashes on holiday in future, scattering them at sea.

Outside the coroner’s court, Ms Ormerod said: ‘After more than five years of waiting, we’ve finally been given some closure around the deaths of mum and dad.

‘However, whatever the outcome today was, nothing would ever make up for the pain and loss we’ve felt since that day.

‘We’d all been looking forward to our family holiday and being able to spend quality time together. We were then faced with total heartbreak.

‘Our family still struggle to comprehend what we went through that day and feel like it should never have happened. The last few years have been the most traumatic time for all of us.

‘While time has moved on, it’s stood still for our family because of the many unanswered questions we’d had.

‘There’s now a huge void in our lives and I don’t think our family will ever fully come to terms with losing mum and dad the way we did. They were both fit and healthy, and to not know how they died has been extremely difficult.

‘Having to relive everything at the inquest has been harrowing but it was something we had to do for mum and dad. 

‘We’d do anything to have them back in our lives but we take some small comfort from at least having the answers we deserve.

‘We now need to try and come to terms with everything. Our family is broken without them.’

The inquest came amid a rise in bedbugs in the UK, which experts say could be down to a rise in travel after the coronavirus pandemic.

Data released by pest-control company Rentokil in September showed that from 2022 to 2023, the UK saw a 65 per cent increase in bed bug infestations.

Experts have warned bed bugs had largely disappeared from daily life in developed countries by the 1950s but have made a return in the past 30 years.

The causes include growing resistance to insecticides, an increase in public travel and a rising proclivity for second-hand goods.

Ms Ormerod has urged those who encounter bedbugs in their homes to consult experts who use recognised pesticides in order to avoid the risk of a repeat tragedy.

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