November 3, 2022 3.00 pm This story is over 12 months old

Lincolnshire woman one of 80 holidayers hit with unusual gastric illness at Cape Verde hotel

Elizabeth was twice discharged from hospital as doctors suspected it was a stroke

A hotel in Cape Verde could face legal action after lawyers were asked to investigate an outbreak of gastric illnesses at the site – affecting more than 80 holidayers, including a woman from Spalding.

Over 80 incidents of gastric illness have been reported by British holidayers who visited the Hotel Riu Palace in Cape Verde, off the coast of Senegal in Northwest Africa, between May and October this year.

Specialist international serious injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have been asked to investigate these illnesses, with questions asked as to why people were allowed to stay at the five-star hotel after others had already reported illness there.

Among those affected was Elizabeth Sutton, a 46-year-old self-employed beauty therapist from Spalding. She went on holiday with her retired mum Patricia Reid on September 6 – opting for a five-star experience at the Hotel Riu Palace in Santa Maria, Cape Verde.

Elizabeth Sutton described the holiday as “hell” that quickly turned into an “expensive medical nightmare”. | Photo: Irwin Mitchell

Elizabeth said she had been looking forward to her first holiday with her mum since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, but her excitement quickly turned to horror as she fell ill from a strong smell of sulphur in the hotel.

“This was supposed to be a wonderful holiday for me and mum,” she said. “It was 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.”

Just two days into the trip, Elizabeth was admitted to hospital over concerns that she was having a stroke, as she suffered headaches, breathing difficulties and sore eyes. She was treated and discharged with medication.

Then, three days later on September 11, more gastric symptoms hit Elizabeth, including severe sickness and diarrhoea, so she was re-admitted to hospital and placed on a drip.

She was again discharged after multiple injections and more medication, but her symptoms have continued long after this.

Elizabeth says she has heard various accounts from other people who stayed at the hotel, and it has continued to affect her even after her return to the United Kingdom.

She has had to take time off work and is currently under the care of her GP, awaiting the results of further medical tests.

Elizabeth continues: “We feel that the hotel, food and facilities were a complete let down and since returning I’ve heard from more than 130 people on Facebook, some of whom were there prior to us, who say that they had similar experiences.

“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 medical nightmare.”

Jennifer Hodgson, the specialist lawyer at Irwin Mitchell supporting those affected, said: “We’re working with more than 80 people whose holidays were ruined by illness. Many of those continue to suffer from ongoing symptoms after returning to the UK.

“Gastric illness can lead to long term health issues and their effect should never be downplayed.

“Understandably, those we represent have many questions about how they fell ill, while many of the group have queried why they weren’t informed of illness at the hotel, before they arrived at the resort.

“We’re determined to establish the answers our clients deserve and to support all of them following what has been a terrible experience.”

A spokesperson for TUI, the tour operator for these holidays to Cape Verde, said: “We are sorry to hear of these experiences at the Riu Palace in Cape Verde. As this is now a legal matter, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.

“We’d like to reassure customers that we regularly audit all of our hotels in respect to health and safety, including hygiene.”

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