'Raised level of illness' at hotel where British couple died

About 300 Thomas Cook customers are being removed from a hotel in Egypt following the deaths of a British couple amid reports of a "raised level of illness among guests".

Holidaymakers were offered alternative hotels "as a precautionary measure" following the deaths of John and Susan Cooper, the tour operator said in a statement.

The "circumstances" of their deaths "are still unclear", it added.

The company told Sky News that it was "deeply saddened by the tragic deaths" and that 301 customers were being removed from the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada.

A statement said: "We have also received further reports of a raised level of illness among guests. Safety is always our first priority, so as a precautionary measure we have taken a decision to remove all our customers from this hotel.

"We will be offering customers alternative hotels within Hurghada, as well as giving them the option to return home."

Mrs Cooper worked at a Thomas Cook branch in Burnley.

The statement said that customers who chose to come home would fly out today, while the company would work with the hotel and support the investigation.

"The Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel was last audited by Thomas Cook in late July 2018 and received an overall score of 96%," the company said.

"We will be contacting those customers due to travel to the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Hurghada in the next four weeks to offer alternative holiday options."

Carol Mackenzie, Thomas Cook's head of customer welfare, told Sky News she flew out to provide support to the family affected by the deaths.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are supporting the family of a British couple who died in Hurghada, Egypt, and we are in contact with the local tour operator."

Earlier, Ingo Burmester, chief of Thomas Cook UK, paid tribute to Mrs Cooper, who he described as a "loyal and long-serving" employee.

He said: "We are deeply saddened by the deaths of two of our customers while on holiday in Hurghada in Egypt, one of whom was a loyal and long-serving member of our Thomas Cook family.

"Our focus is on fully supporting their loved ones.

"We are urgently investigating with the hotel and supporting the local authorities."