Hundreds Of Families From Across the UK Affected By Gastric Illness In ‘Holidays From Hell’
More than 530 British holidaymakers have instructed lawyers to investigate having been struck down with gastric illnesses during their holidays in Cape Verde this summer.
The Brits who stayed at the seven hotels affected have come forward to tell their stories, including a teacher from Wolverhampton, a couple from Devon, a family from Solihull still recovering two months on, one man from Derbyshire, who collapsed on his flight home and a beauty therapist from Lincolnshire, who doctors initially feared was suffering a stroke.
In some cases, symptoms were so severe that many were forced to visit the local hospital in Cape Verde and had to cancel excursions booked as part of what was, for many, intended to be a special all-inclusive five star ‘holiday of a lifetime’ or a dream newlyweds honeymoon.
Upon returning to the UK, hundreds of holidaymakers have instructed specialist international serious injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate after many have tested positive for a number of serious bacterial pathogens including Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella and E.coli. The firm has vast experience of successfully representing many thousands of holidaymakers who have suffered serious illness or injury abroad over the last decade.
All had been on holidays booked through tour operator TUI, staying across seven hotels in the Sal area of Cape Verde. The hotels were: Riu Palace Santa Maria, Riu Cabo Verde, Riu Palace Boavista, Riu Funana, TUI Blue Cabo Verde, the Sol Dunas and the Melia Dunas. Many holidaymakers have questioned why they were allowed to stay at their hotels when it was known others had already fallen ill.
Expert Opinion“We are supporting more than 500 people, including more than 200 people who stayed at the Riu Palace Santa Maria alone, who at best had their holiday ruined and at worst had their health seriously affected following stays in the Sal area of Cape Verde.
“That so many should have been affected at these hotels, in the same region under the same tour operator, has left the people we are representing with a lot of questions over what happened to them this summer and we’re determined to help them find the answers.
“Bacterial illnesses such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella and E.coli are serious and should never be underestimated. They can cause long-term health issues for the most vulnerable, and even death. The fact some still remain ill several months after their return is very concerning.
“Some have chosen to share their stories to highlight the questions they have, not least over why some people continued to be sent to the resorts as late as October of this year, when the numbers involved would suggest that something was very wrong as early as May of this year.
“If the causes are identified, then it is vital that lessons are learned to ensure no other holidaymakers are left with debilitating illnesses, and we hope to work with TUI to resolve the claims amicably.
“The sheer number of people who continue to approach us on a daily basis is incredible, but as part of our investigations, we remain keen to hear from anyone else affected while staying at these hotels in Cape Verde.” Jatinder Paul, Senior Associate Solicitor
Riu Palace, Santa Maria
Elizabeth Sutton, a beauty therapist, and her mum, Patricia Reid, who is retired, travelled to the Hotel Riu Palace, Santa Maria, in Cape Verde, on 6 September for what was due to be a much anticipated week-long luxury break in the sun.
Both Elizabeth and her mum reported a strong sulphur smell at the hotel. Her mother, who is asthmatic, began to experience breathing difficulties and the hotel doctor advised Patricia to start taking her steroid medication and told her to use her inhaler more often than she usually needed.
After two days, Elizabeth, 46, began to suffer headaches, breathing difficulties and her eyes became sore and red. These symptoms were so severe that Elizabeth was admitted to hospital over concerns that she was having a stroke. She was treated and discharged with medication.
On 11 September, Elizabeth also began experiencing gastric symptoms, including severe sickness and diarrhoea and was re-admitted to hospital where she was placed on a drip. Following multiple injections and more medication, Elizabeth was again discharged.
Her symptoms have continued following her return to the UK and Elizabeth was forced to take time off work. She is still under the care of her GP and awaiting the results of further tests.
Elizabeth said: “This was supposed to be a wonderful holiday for me and mum, our first holiday together since the Covid pandemic, and we booked a stay at a five-star hotel expecting a bit of luxury and pampering. Instead, the trip turned into the holiday from hell.
“The smell of sulphur in the room was overpowering. It was so bad that mum paid for us to move to a new hotel, but by that stage I was already ill. The food at the hotel also appeared to be left for long periods of time uncovered, allowing exposure to flies and there were cats and birds in and around the hotel.
“I’ve never experienced anything like it and when I went into hospital for the second time, I was really scared.
“We feel that the hotel, food and facilities were a complete let down and since returning I’ve heard from more than 300 people on Facebook, some of whom were there prior to us, who say that they had similar experiences at the Riu Palace.
“I’m angry that I’m still living with the symptoms, but I also feel lucky to have got home in one piece. I feel we all deserve some answers over what happened, especially as it sounds like others fell ill before we stayed there. It’s the least we deserve after what turned into an expensive and very painful medical nightmare.”
Hannah Smith and partner, Oliver Dean, from Perton, Wolverhampton, were on a week’s holiday at Riu Palace Santa Maria between 13 and 20 August.
They were having the break away during the school holiday, due to Hannah’s work as a teacher. They had always wanted to see Cape Verde and were looking forward to a relaxing holiday.
By the evening of 18 August, Hannah, 28, had begun suffering from gastric symptoms, which were so severe that she required medical attention. She was seen by the hotel doctor during the early hours of 19 August and was administered an anti-sickness injection and rehydration salts.
Hannah was so ill that they could not go on the island tour that they hoped to book for the end of the holiday. Her symptoms continued following her return home, ruining what was left of her summer holiday before the new school term started.
Oliver, 27, an IT technician, fell ill on 20 August, just as they were preparing to come home. The sickness and diarrhoea were so severe that Oliver also had to be given treatment and anti-sickness injections by the hotel doctor.
Hannah said: “The holiday was such a disappointment. Our symptoms were so bad that we had no choice but to see the doctor in the resort and I continued to feel ill for weeks afterwards.
“It only really hit Oliver hard at the end of the holiday and, by that point, neither of us was in a fit state to help the other. The flight home was unbelievably difficult and Oliver was so ill, he had to take more time off work when we got back.
“To be that ill on holiday is the last thing you expect, particularly at what is billed as a five star hotel.
“I now wish we’d never booked the holiday, but I think the least we can expect is an explanation of what went wrong and some assurance that other people aren’t going through the terrible experience that we did.”
Nichola Morley, 52, from Paignton and her partner Darren Cartwright, 57, from Torquay travelled to the Riu Palace on 10 May for a two-week break to celebrate Darren’s recovery from cancer.
By the following afternoon, freelance writer and Tik Tok sensation, Nichola had fallen ill with stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea. She told her legal team that she also began vomiting blood a few days later, and was complaining of joint pain.
Darren, a car garage owner, began to suffer similar symptoms on 12 May after returning from a diving lesson.
After eight to nine days of not eating, Nichola said she collapsed. The couple attended hospital abroad, where Nichola was put on a drip.
Following their return home to the UK on 25 May, Nichola went to see a GP. She was placed on a course of antibiotics and spent three weeks at home recovering.
Nichola said: “We had been looking forward to our holiday for quite some time, but very soon I was really unwell.
“Darren fell ill shortly afterwards, and he even began hallucinating. We called reception a number of times for help and to ask for a doctor, but no-one came.
“We ended up taking ourselves to hospital and were both put on a drip. By this point, we were both so weak as we hadn’t eaten for several days.
“On the last day of our trip, we thought it would be a good idea to try and eat a little bit to keep our strength up for the journey home. When we got there, the salad was covered in flies. I grabbed a bit of bread and small piece of turkey, but when I cut it open it was pink and raw inside.
“This was only a few days after I had complained about bloody chicken and I couldn’t believe it was still happening. It’s no wonder people were ill.
“When we got home, I spent around three weeks at home, mostly in bed recovering. I really wish we had never booked the holiday, it turned into a total nightmare. All we can hope for now is some answers; it’s the least we deserve.”
Riu Cabo Verde
Newlyweds Chris France, 32 and Amy Jacklin 29 were on a three-week honeymoon when they fell ill with stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Chris and Amy had booked the Riu Cabo Verde through TUI for between 7-28 August. They chose the five-star advertised all-inclusive hotel as a bit of luxury and a fitting cap for their wedding celebrations.
Chris, a leader of a solutions practice and Amy, a kitchen associate, were two days into their stay when Amy began to suffer from stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhoea on 9 August. This became so severe that having seen a medical professional, Amy was referred to hospital.
She was put on a drip on account of her dehydration and was discharged on the same day. As a result of the illness, the couple said they were unable to enjoy the rest of their honeymoon, and were forced to cancel their planned trips.
Chris then came down with the same symptoms on 20 August. He also visited a medical professional at the hotel.
Both were prescribed with the same anti-sickness medication, probiotics for gut health and rehydration formula before being released from hospital. By 28 August, although they still felt unwell, the couple were able to catch their flight home.
Amy said: “Chris and I had such a fantastic wedding and to complete it with a honeymoon in Cape Verde was meant to be our dream come true.
“Our holiday of a lifetime turned in to the holiday from hell after just two days. I’ve never felt so ill and instead of enjoying our honeymoon, I was in hospital with Chris at my bedside.
“As I started to improve, Chris then started to be sick. Our honeymoon was ruined and turned into a three-week nightmare we’ll always remember now for all the wrong reasons.
“We had our doubts when the food appeared to be re-served more than once and flies and animals were everywhere, with cats in the restaurant. The grubby linen and chipped, dirty plates were also not what you would expect from a five star hotel. To make matters worse, we spoke to the reps but we felt our concerns weren’t really dealt with.
“We know others were ill at the hotel when we were and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear there were more. It’s not something you expect and I think the least we can ask is an explanation of what happened.”
Richard Marshall, 46 from Finden in Derbyshire travelled to Riu Funana for a week’s holiday on 28 August. He became unwell on 3 September, two days before he was due to travel home with severe gastric symptoms, including stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Richard was still ill when he was due to travel home on 5 September, so much so that he fell unconscious on the flight home and came round to find himself surrounded by paramedics, staff and passengers. Richard was taken to hospital and was admitted for two days before being discharged with a course of antibiotics.
Richard said: “This year’s holiday is one I’ll always remember for all the wrong reasons. I have never felt so ill and to wake up on the plane surrounded by paramedics and then taken to hospital was a frightening experience.
“The food at the hotel all looked undercooked and the chicken looked raw on some occasions. The flies were everywhere and there didn’t seem to be too much concern in keeping the food areas as clean as you would expect.”
Consett, County Durham
Anthony Hoban, 66 from Consett in County Durham was on a ten day holiday at Riu Funana with his wife, Lesley Hoban, 61 from 7-18 September when both started to fell unwell on 12 September.
They both started to suffer from gastric symptoms, including stomach pains, sickness and diarrhoea on 12 September.
As with others who stayed at the hotel, the couple reported what looked like undercooked food, that they believed was being recycled for other meals and the files that appeared to be everywhere.
Speaking for the couple, Anthony said: “This was meant to be a luxury break abroad but is without doubt the worst holiday we have ever been on. The bathroom in our room contained cracked tiles, the towels supplied were threadbare and contained holes.
“The flies seemed to be everywhere, with no real attempt to do anything about it and after a few days, we started to notice the food becoming a bit too repetitive and what had been out for lunch appeared to have been just recycled for dinner. There were also birds pecking at the food on the tables in the buffet.
“This is not what you expect from what we thought was going to be a luxury break and both of us were so ill, it ruined a holiday we had so much been looking forward to. We asked the rep in the hotel for help and they just told us to stay hydrated and it seemed they didn’t really care much about what was happening.
“The pool was filthy and a square building to the side of it reeked of sewage and left you feeling constantly nauseous. No one should expect this when they go away and the least we deserve is answers as to how this was allowed to happen and people fall ill with nothing being done.”
TUI Blue Cabo Verde
Pwllheli, North Wales
Karen Edwards, 58 and her partner, David Watkinson, 55 travelled to the TUI Blue Cabo Verde on 2 October, but were so ill that they cut their holiday short and paid for an earlier return flight to the UK on 9 October to return home to Pwllheli in North Wales via Manchester.
Both Karen and David fell ill with severe stomach cramps, David was also prescribed antibiotics for sickness and diarrhoea. They had seen a doctor at the resort, who prescribed anti-sickness tablets, but both continued to suffer from symptoms so bad that they felt they needed to cut short their holiday and return home.
Karen, a shop owner is still so ill that she has been unable to return to work and both she and David have seen their GP, who has taken samples from them for testing, and in David’s case has tested positive for Campylobacter.
The couple had concerns over the standard of the food at the hotel. The couple said flies were everywhere and the venue left them with a poor impression, with cats begging for food around buffet areas. On one occasion, having cut into a lasagne, she found the mince to be pink and uncooked.
Speaking for the couple, Karen said: “Dave and I have still not fully recovered from what we suffered at that terrible hotel, and I think someone needs to explain exactly how the situation that left us so ill was allowed to develop. We still cannot believe that this is billed as a five-star TUI hotel.
“We felt there was no choice but to leave that hotel as soon as possible. We had seen the doctor at the resort, were forced to attend the medical centre and reported matters to the TUI representative, but nothing seemed to change.
“Hotel management said they would do what they could, but that amounted to being offered room service; not much use when the reason you can’t leave the room is you’re too sick to do so.
“We completed the complaints form in resort but were not given a copy and management only seemed to care when we made clear that we were leaving. We got an email from the hotel, and they appeared shocked and tried to persuade us not to leave.
“It was clear that there were illness problems at the hotel, and we were really worried about other people who would be arriving for their holiday, unaware of what was happening. Those arriving as we left looked to be older people and we genuinely feared for what might happen to them.
“The standards at this hotel were completely unacceptable and I’m not surprised others had similar experiences. Apologies at this stage aren’t good enough and I think those responsible for the state of affairs at that hotel have a lot of explaining to do. What everyone needs now is the reassurance that something is being done to see that this doesn’t happen to anyone else again.”
Sol Dunas Resort
Matthew Roper, 53, travelled to the Sol Dunas Resort in July with his wife, Emma Roper, 54, and two children, Toby and Florence. Within three days into the holiday, members of the family began suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting.
At one point, Florence fainted in the bathroom of her hotel room and was seen by the on-site doctor twice, from whom she received rehydration salts and anti-vomiting medication.
Matthew said: “We’d saved for a long time for our holiday to Cape Verde and were really looking forward to our first holiday since Covid. It didn’t take long for it to turn into a complete nightmare. It was obvious there was a wider issue at the hotel because so many others were in the same position.”
“We were forced to cancel one of the day trips we had planned, which was really disappointing. Even when we began to feel a bit better, we ate very little and when we did it was just bland food like bread, spaghetti and chips as we didn’t want to risk getting sick again. The holiday was ruined.
“I know there’s nothing that can be done to change the experience we’ve had, but the least we deserve are some answers as to how this happened. We wouldn’t want any other families suffering like this.”
Melia Dunas Resort
Lesley Breed, 53, travelled to the Melia Dunas Resort on 26 July with her husband Grant Breed, 53, and son Finn Breed, 15
By 6 August, all three of them had been ill at some point during the holiday. Lesley was still unwell on 9 August, which was the last day of their trip.
Lesley said: “We couldn’t wait to get to the hotel, particularly after an eight-hour wait at the airport on the way out. But our holiday went from bad to worse.”
“We all fell ill, and I’m not surprised when I recall the undercooked meat at the restaurant and the poor hygiene. I remember phoning housekeeping twice for basic essentials such as toilet paper and water, but still had to end up going to reception myself. If they can’t get the basics right, it’s no wonder the hotel is in the state it is.
“Something needs to be done so no others have to go through what we did.”