Coroner criticises ‘dark side’ to luxury hotel
The widow of an elderly British tourist who died after falling ill at a luxury Italian hotel has called for better safety standards at holiday resorts after an inquest ruled today that Salmonella poisoning caused his death.
Jean Appleyard and her husband, Geoffrey, aged 71, were staying at the four-star Grand Hotel in the exclusive Gardone resort on the shores of Lake Garda last year when both began to suffer from fever and stomach pains.
Mr Appleyard, from Evesham, Worcestershire, was seen by the luxury hotel’s on-site doctor but remained ill in his room and died the following day, on June 23. A subsequent autopsy and post mortem carried out by the Italian authorities revealed Salmonella type B in his blood stream.
An inquest at Worcestershire coroners court today recorded a verdict of misadventure after hearing evidence that the Salmonella poisoning Mr Appleyard contracted contributed to his death.
And Worcestershire coroner Geraint Williams criticised standards at the hotel, saying: “Mr and Mrs Appleyard went on holiday in Italy on a recommendation and, although the hotel seemed very picturesque, there was a very dark side in the kitchen and cellars where there was a virulent contamination of salmonella in the foodstuffs.
“This was served to the guests and, as a consequence, a large number of guests became ill. Mr Appleyard died because he was not able to withstand this infection.”
The Italian authorities have confirmed that Salmonella was detected at the hotel and leading national law firm Irwin Mitchell’s specialist travel litigation team is now representing Mrs Appleyard, as well as 32 other guests who fell ill throughout June last year at the same hotel.
Mrs Appleyard welcomed the verdict from today’s inquest, saying it had finally given her the answers she needed as to why her holiday had ended in tragedy.
“I have always been convinced that salmonella was a major factor in my husband’s death and it is important that this has now been formally recognised,” she said.
“We went to the Grand Hotel for a luxury holiday. It is simply appalling that we fell ill and Geoffrey contracted something as serious as Salmonella at a hotel like that.
“Nothing can possibly replace him but tour operators have to ensure they are doing everything they possibly can to make sure holidaymakers – their customers – are protected from outbreaks like this. Geoffrey died, other people ended up in hospital and lessons have to be learned from incidents like this.”
Clive Garner, Head of Travel claims at Irwin Mitchell, said today: “The tragic death of Geoffrey Appleyard has been a terrible loss for Jean Appleyard and her family. We welcome the Coroner’s verdict at the inquest today, which goes some way to answering the questions raised by the family.
“However, what the inquest does not answer is how conditions at this hotel could have been allowed to fall to this level. Mr and Mrs Appleyard and their fellow guests were staying in a luxury hotel where standards of hygiene and food preparation should have been first class. The contamination of large numbers of guests with Salmonella and Mr Appleyard’s subsequent death show that the actual standards fell far below this and were clearly unacceptable.
“In the eyes of his family, no one will ever replace Mr Appleyard and nothing can fully compensate the family for their loss. But Mrs Appleyard’s Tour Operator, TUI, has now admitted liability and with the inquest concluded we hope that a suitable settlement will be negotiated quickly to enable our client to move on with her life.
“Ten of our other clients who became ill at the Grand Hotel still continue to suffer illness today, despite that the initial infections occurred over a year ago. A number of those clients were admitted to Italian hospitals and diagnosed with Salmonella. Some are still on medication today.
“It is simply unacceptable that guests in any hotel should be exposed to food poisoning. Hotel owners and management must do more to reduce the risk of illness and Tour Operators must do more to ensure that the hotels they send guests to obey strict food hygiene regulations and procedures.
“Although it is too late to save Mr Appleyard, we hope that lessons will be learned so that in the future similar tragedies can be avoided.”