A REDDITCH woman and her family who went through “sheer hell” while on what they thought would be the holiday of a lifetime have joined hundreds of others in taking legal action against a national tour operator.

Amanda Lakin took her 12 and 13-year-old sons and her 75-year-old mother, who had battled cancer, on the trip to the all inclusive Royal Park Hotel, Bulgaria in July 2008.

On arrival, they were amazed by the palatial hotel exterior, but things very soon started to deteriorate.

“We got there late and went straight to bed,” said the mum from Church Hill North. “But when we woke up, the smell which hit us was rancid.”

Her sons had to share a sofa bed, and when Miss Lakin removed a sheet from the bed, she discovered numerous urine stains, some of them still slightly damp.

“Everything stunk of urine and staleness, it was horrifying. When I complained, the reaction I received was like I was making a fuss about nothing.”

The family were then faced with dead flies on food in the buffet, which staff seemed reluctant to throw away, and birds sat feeding off the buffet.

“I also saw staff filling the water bottles, which we all took drinks from, with the hose they used to water the garden. There was the most appalling lack of hygiene everywhere.”

There was also just one all inclusive bar for 800 hotel guests, and just one club for all guests, but it would only accommodate a few hundred people.

As the family’s misery grew, worse was still to come, as Miss Lakin and her mum fell ill.

“I didn’t have the strength to walk,” said Miss Lakin. “I was losing fluid and felt I had nothing left. Later, mum became so ill she actually thought she was going to die. She battled cancer and then had to face this during what should have been a dream holiday.”

After several days Miss Lakin made it down to the reception where she was stunned by what she found.

“It was like a film, there was so many sick people. There was little kids being carried by parents with drips coming out of their arms. I’ve never seen anything like it. Everyone was trying to get help.”

Law firm Irwin Mitchell is taking legal action on behalf of 276 clients against First Choice after it denied responsibility for the outbreak of illness suffered by guests between June and October 2008.

The firm has already successfully recovered a substantial settlement for 95 holidaymakers who fell ill at the resort in 2004, 2005 and 2007.

Clive Garner, who heads the travel law team, said: “It’s almost beyond belief that First Choice has continued to deny liability.

“Many clients suffered severe illness, including Shigella, an illness which can have fatal consequences.

“Many told us they were unable to obtain medical treatment in resort as the queues at the clinic were so long because of the number of guests seeking treatment.

“The failures that occurred were very serious and shouldn’t be tolerated. First Choice’s denial of liability and refusal to apologise and voluntarily compensate our clients is breathtaking.

“We want nothing more than for First Choice to sit down with us and negotiate a fair settlement as soon as possible. But if they refuse, we and our clients will see them in court."

Miss Lakin added: “First Choice should be held accountable for what happened. It was sheer hell. Physically and emotionally, we’ll never get over it.”

She recommended that everyone check websites such as tripadvisor.co.uk before booking a holiday.