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Two British children found dead in Greece hotel

Written by: Staff

ATHENS, Oct 26 (Reuters) Two British children were found dead and their parents in a coma in their hotel on the Greek island of Corfu today in what first toxicological tests indicated was poisoning, authorities said.

The two children, a 6-year-old boy and his 7-year-old sister, and their parents, were discovered early today inside their room by a maid at their four-star, beachfront hotel on the Ionian Sea island, which is popular with British tourists, police said.

''The first indications show that they may have taken some sort of powerful poison,'' Corfu general hospital pathologist Stefanos Gasteratos told state television. ''The parents are on life-support machines and in critical condition.'' A Foreign Office source in London named the two dead children as Robert and Christianne and their parents as Neil Shepherd and Ruth Beatson from West Yorkshire.

Gasteratos, who is the acting coroner, said the children died some eight to 10 hours before they were found by the cleaner at the Louis Corcyra Beach hotel. He had said earlier the children's ages were 5 and 7.

''The parents seem to have been stronger in fighting this, which is to be expected,'' he added.

Police officials said they had not ruled out the possibility that the family had consumed poisonous mushrooms.

''The autopsy will be conducted tomorrow and from the symptoms of the parents there are toxicological indications that it could also have been caused by poisonous mushrooms,'' a police official on the island told Reuters.

The official said the results of the final tests would be issued on Friday noon 1430 hrs IST.

But a source close to the hotel company said food poisoning was unlikely.

''It looks like a serious consumption of a toxic poison. Food poisoning is out of the picture,'' the source said. ''There are 500 guests at the hotel right now and they are all fine.'' ''There was no sign of forced entry into the room nor was there a 'do not disturb sign' hanging on door,'' the source added.

A receptionist at the hotel, located on the eastern coast of the island on Gouvia Bay some eight km northwest of the town of Corfu, said the family had checked in on October 23 and that the hotel would close for the season on October 31.

''They had not caused any problems during their stay,'' the receptionist, who declined to be named, told Reuters.

This is the third criminal investigation into an incident involving British tourists in Greece in the past few months.

In August, a Briton was charged with murder after jumping from a hotel balcony in Crete holding his two children and killing one of them in the fall.

Earlier this month, another British tourist was charged with attempted murder for the fall and severe injury of his girlfriend from another hotel balcony on the island.

Reuters PB DB2158

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