Chesterfield family win court battle over ‘illness, poo on the wall and ants in bathroom’ holiday hell

All eight family members fell ill on the holiday.
All eight family members fell ill on the holiday.

A Chesterfield family who were struck down with gastric illnesses and forced to stay in a hotel room with ‘mould and faeces on the wall’ during a holiday from hell have been awarded compensation.

Mark and Jodie Withycombe had flown to Spain with their four children, Mark Jnr, 16, Savana, 15, Nikita, 13, and Shain, 11, along with Jodie’s parents, April and Joseph Turner.

The family were ‘looking forward’ to the all-inclusive two week holiday, which had been booked as a ‘rare treat’ with Thomas Cook.

But upon arriving at the four-star Hotel El Paso in Port Aventura, they discovered their rooms had been left in a bad state- with damp, mould and what appeared to be excrement on the curtains and walls along with ‘ants in the bathroom’.

Things ‘went from bad to worse’ when eight members fell ill with diarrhoea and vomiting.

Mark, a yard manager, said: “We didn’t expect to return home feeling worse than we did when we left. I remember Jodie’s mum crying and saying that she just wanted to come home. It was horrible to see the children being poorly.”

When Thomas Cook denied liability for the illnesses suffered the family took legal action.

After a nine-day trial, Judge HHJ Ian Murdoch ruled that the Withycombes had suffered their illnesses as a result of the consumption of contaminated food or drink at the Hotel El Paso. The victory paves the way for a financial settlement for the family.

Clare Pearson, legal specialist at Irwin Mitchell representing the family, said: “From the very beginning the family were determined to fight for justice as they did not feel that their complaints had been recognised by the tour operator. They do not go holiday abroad often and were really upset when they all became ill on the holiday through no fault of their own.

“They were disappointed with the condition of their hotel room and really did not think they had got what they paid for. “Although this judgment will pave the way for a financial settlement it was not about that at the beginning.

“The family just wanted answers as to why they had been ill and why the complaints they made in resort had gone unanswered.

“It is unfortunate that the case had to go to court, and couldn’t be settled beforehand.

“We have been working with the family since their return to the UK to help them gain justice after their negative experiences. We are delighted that we have finally achieved this for them in the courts.”

A Thomas Cook spokesperson said: “We want all of our customers to enjoy their holiday with us and we are very sorry that this group were ill while staying at the Hotel El Paso, PortAventura World, in Spain in 2013. We always advise customers to tell their Thomas Cook rep if they become unwell so that they can get the right care to then be able to enjoy the rest of their holiday.

“The health and safety of our customers is always our first priority and we expect our hotel partners to maintain a high standard of hygiene at all times. We’ll be working closely with this hotel to ensure that these processes are followed and will support them with any extra measures that need putting in place.”