Woman's food poisoning insurance claim rejected over pictures of her drinking

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A British holidaymaker who claimed a hotel’s poor hygiene left her with diarrhoea had a compensation bid thrown out by a judge after she boasted about the trip online.

Marissa McLean said she fell ill with “nausea and diarrhoea” during an all-inclusive Thomas Cook holiday in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh resort, despite Facebook posts about being in “paradise.”

She alleged that she suffered illness because of “poor hygiene at the hotel” and “the way food was cooked and prepared”, and brought a claim for damages against the tour operator.

But a court heard how during the period she was supposedly left “trotting back and forth to the toilet,” she was posting pictures of herself enjoying herself on the social media site.

In a damning conclusion, Judge Nadeem Khan said her evidence was “neither plausible or credible”.

He formally ruled her claim “fundamentally dishonest”, allowing the tour operator to recover the money it had spent fighting her claim.

Instead she was ordered to pay £2,812 within 21 days, and refused leave to appeal.

Facebook photos were shown to a judge of her posing in a white bikini with the caption “little selfie before the pool party”, hours after claiming she had seen a resort doctor.

In another, she was shown with a glass of rum and coke, captioned “pacing myself”, despite saying she was left unable to drink alcohol.

Miss McLean of Redditch, Worcestershire, said she was left with “horrible stomach pains” but managed to endure a 90-minute coach ride to the coast, this time for a yacht excursion.

She then posted a social media video with the caption: “VIP luxury yesterday – damn I am going to miss this luxury.”

Days later, another photograph showed her at the wheel of the yacht, with the description “Captain Marissa, in charge of the boat”.

Marissa McLean: The 27-year-old leaves Worcester Crown and County Court after her legal bid was thrown out by a judge. (PA)

The 27-year-old claimed the posts were to provoke an ex-boyfriend back in the UK to jealously.

But the judge at Worcester County Court said: “I don’t accept the claimant’s view that they present a false account for an ex-boyfriend… I don’t find the claimant’s account truthful.”

Miss McLean, who flew out from Birmingham for the six-day holiday with a female friend, told the court on Wednesday: “I wanted it to look like I was having a good time.”

But Ian Denham, representing the tour operator, said there was “a vacuum of evidence” about her case.

Under cross-examination, Miss McLean, a healthcare assistant, said: “Well I wasn’t going to put online how I was really feeling.”

She added: “The captain was persistent and kept asking to let him take a picture.

“I was feeling ill on the boat and had diarrhoea.”

She claimed to have seen a resort doctor, referred to as “Dr Tariq Mustafa” in court, although Thomas Cook had been unable to contact him.

Miss McLean also allegedly told a holiday rep about the issues while in the four-star Sol Y Mar hotel, in Shark’s Bay, and they had promised to give her a form to fill out, but never did.

The court heard she had not contacted the tour operator at any time after returning home.

An independent medical expert Dr Martyn Evans, asked to assess Miss McLean, stated: “The symptoms are compatible with gastro-enteritis from food poisoning as a result of poor handling or hygiene at the hotel.”

But it emerged Dr Evans based his report on a telephone assessment only, with Judge Khan describing its findings as “flawed.”

He also said emails claimed to have been received from “Dr Mustafa” had “cast doubt on the authenticity” of a medical note said to be a record of that treatment.

Outside court, Miss McLean said the judgment against her was “wrong”.

Speaking after Wednesday’s hearing, a spokesman for Thomas Cook said: “We’ve been clear we won’t hesitate to take action where we feel it’s justified in order to protect the majority of honest holidaymakers.

“We’re pleased that, for a second time, a judge has recognised the dishonesty in these cases, showing that the courts are increasingly aware of the levels of fraud we’re seeing in holiday sickness claims.”

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