x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Restaurant cleared in D'Souza deaths

Chef, supervisor and doctor resentenced and told to pay Dh400,000 in blood money after brother and sister died from food poisoning

The sitting judge ruled that a restaurant, in this case Lotus Garden in Al Qusais, could not be accused of accidental death.
The sitting judge ruled that a restaurant, in this case Lotus Garden in Al Qusais, could not be accused of accidental death.

DUBAI // A restaurant was acquitted yesterday morning of the deaths of two children nearly two years ago from food poisoning - although two of its workers were convicted.

In explaining his ruling, the Court of Appeal judge said companies - in this case, a Chinese restaurant - could not be accused of accidental death. The actions of a person or people were needed to cause food poisoning, he said.

Other details of the verdict reflected his discretion, he said, but declined to comment further.

Chelsea and Nathan D'Souza, aged eight and five, died after eating a meal from Lotus Garden in 2009. The cafeteria's Nepalese chef, TR, 26, his Filipino supervisor, ES, 34, and the Iraqi doctor, ET, 47, were all resentenced yesterday at the Court of Appeal to a suspended six months in prison and a Dh20,000 fine each. The court also ordered them to jointly pay Dh400,000 in blood money to the children's parents.

In February, the Dubai Court of Misdemeanours had fined the doctor, the restaurant, the chef and the supervisor Dh10,000 each and ordered them to jointly pay Dh200,000 in blood money.

But Hussain al Banai, who represented the restaurant in Al Qusais, had argued the municipality had gathered samples for testing from the restaurant's rubbish rather than from the kitchen.

He told the court that about 120 people who ate the same food on the same day as Chelsea and Nathan were unaffected. He added that even the food samples collected from the restaurant's rubbish showed non-fatal levels of bacteria.

Mohammad al Suwaidi, the lawyer for the Iraqi doctor, had additionally argued that the drug lidocaine was found in the siblings' bodies and may have caused their deaths.

The courts found that the restaurant employees had breached hygiene standards in the way they stored food, which allowed harmful bacteria to grow. They found the doctor, who worked at New Medical Centre Specialty Hospital, negligent in her treatment of the children.

The children, their mother and their housemaid ate takeaway food from the restaurant at 7.30pm on June 13, 2009. By 2am, they had all begun feeling sick and started vomiting.

They were rushed to NMC Hospital, where they were treated. After being discharged, Mrs D'Souza and the housemaid recovered.

But the children were returned to the hospital the following morning after their condition worsened. Nathan was dead on arrival. Chelsea died the next day at Dubai Hospital. After autopsies, the children's bodies were flown to France, where they were buried on June 29.

The Chinese restaurant, which denied any wrongdoing, was initially closed, but Dubai Municipality allowed it to reopen three months later.

salamir@thenational.ae