Company fined £ 120,000 after Scottish teenager dies from carbon monoxide poisoning in aristocrat’s cottage

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The farming business owned by the Earl of Dalhousie and his heir Lord Ramsay has been fined £ 120,000 after a student died of carbon monoxide poisoning in their rented holiday home.

Thomas Hill, 18, a Stirling University student, was found slumped in a bathroom in a dilapidated cottage on the aristocrat’s estate after being fatally poisoned.

Retired teacher Piers Le Cheminant – who sublet the chalet to others – was also fined £ 2,000 after a court heard carbon monoxide could have killed visitors over a period of almost eight years.

Mr Hill’s parents Jerry, 59, and Alison, 55, criticized the length of time it took to file a lawsuit after Dundee Sheriff’s Court learned that six years to the day had passed. since the tragic death of their son.

Mr Hill said: “Tom was a really special young man and it seems to us that what killed him was really a series of failures. It took a third of his life to investigate and bring him to justice and that seems completely preventable.

“I don’t think anyone comes out of this process with great credit. It just seems like everyone is trying to deflect the blame. It has been a bit overwhelming.

“We look forward to the investigation of the fatal crash so that we can make sure this never happens again.

“Tom was loved by his whole family. From a family perspective it was devastating. We try to remember him in a positive way because he was a positive person.

“We miss him a lot. He was a boy who never wasted time, he never said he was bored. He always looked after his interests like the environment. I’m sure he would have done it. good things in life. “

Thomas’ girlfriend at the time, Charlotte Beard, 24, criticized the time taken by the Crown to prosecute the case and called the fines totally insufficient.

Charlotte, who was pregnant at the time of the incident and subsequently miscarried, said: “Regarding the £ 2,000 fine, it cost my family more than attending. this hearing today. “

Lord Ramsay was not in court on Thursday – after testing positive for Covid – to hear his Dalhousie Estate-based farming business fined for putting holidaymakers at risk of injury or death from poisoning.

The former teacher at Le Cheminant private school – who sublet the property for the tragic breakdown – also admitted to committing the same health and safety breaches.

Sheriff Gillian Wade said: “The bathroom heater should never have been there. For a period of seven and a half years, people using the cottage have been at risk.”

In particular, she criticized Le Cheminant for not having accepted its responsibilities correctly and for having told social workers that he did not think he had done something wrong.

“He blames the estate,” she said. “He also says that, even in hindsight, he’s not sure he would have done anything different.”

Thomas, a freshman, was found dead behind a bathroom door at Glenmark Cottage after succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Tax MP Gavin Callaghan told the court: “Mr. Hill was on vacation on October 28, 2015 with his girlfriend Ms. Beard and her family.

“The Beard family had rented a lodge – Glenmark Cottage – which is near Tarfside, northwest of the village of Edzell.

“The Cottage is owned by Burghill Farms, a general partnership engaged in agriculture, sport and property management. During the defamation period, the company’s partners were The Earl and Countess of Dalhousie and their son, Lord Ramsay.

“It is understood that the partners are now Lord Ramsay and the Dalhousie 2021 Trust. The partnership is called Dalhousie Estates. The estate covers 48,000 acres.

“Mr. Le Cheminant is a historical user of the gîte … and has been renting it since 2008, with authorization to sublet it for seasonal rental.

“The facilities could rightly be described as basic. Heating and lighting were provided by a combination of gas appliances and candles.

“On Wednesday, October 28, Mr. Hill went for a bath in the afternoon. About an hour after going for a bath, Ms. Beard went to check that he was okay.

“The bathroom door was locked and received no response, entry into the room was eventually forced, after which Mr. Hill was found sitting, leaning against the door.

“There was a smell of gas emanating from the gas heater in the room, which produced a hum. It was turned off and CPR began.

“Considerable effort was put into resuscitating Mr. Hill by a variety of people, including the Beard family, plantation workers and paramedics.

“Mr Hill was placed in an ambulance for transport to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, but was pronounced dead en route.

“A subsequent autopsy confirmed that the cause of Mr. Hill’s death was carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Burghill Farms and Le Cheminant, [1-8-45] Spitchwick Manor, Poundsgate, Newton Abbot have both admitted putting people at risk of death at Glenmark Cottage for more than seven years.

They admitted that between March 1, 2008 and October 28, 2015, they failed to ensure that gas heaters were kept in a safe condition in order to avoid the risk of injury to vacationers.

They admitted that the heaters were used in rooms that were far too small and not well ventilated, nor were they adequately maintained.

The charges – under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations and the Occupational Health and Safety Act – state that “those in these premises have been exposed to a risk of injury or death. due to exposure to carbon monoxide “.

Mr Callaghan, on behalf of the Crown, said: “It was assumed that Mr Hill died of carbon monoxide poisoning and this was later found to be correct.”

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He said an investigation revealed that there had been cracks in the radiator and that it was producing carbon monoxide far beyond safe levels.

“The accusations relate to the more basic problem that the radiators shouldn’t have been there at all, due to the volume of the room and the resulting risk of carbon monoxide exposure.

“The radiator should never have been in the bathroom. A knowledgeable gas engineer would have identified the risk. Neither Burghill Farms nor Mr. Le Cheminant had a proactive maintenance system.

“The four gas heaters were in rooms where they should not have been placed because the rooms were too small and insufficiently ventilated. They put people inside those rooms at risk.

“There would have been a number of people during the charge period. Anyone in the chalet during the period would have been at risk.”

Mr Callaghan said the criminal case would be followed by a fatal accident investigation “to examine the gas safety issues that Mr Hill’s untimely and tragic death has exposed”.

Outside the courtroom, Lord Ramsay said: “We offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Thomas Hill on their tragic loss.”

Lord Ramsay is the son and heir of the Scottish landowner, the 17th Earl of Dalhousie. The court heard that they had planted a memorial in honor of Thomas and donated to charities for carbon monoxide and child bereavement.

Lord Ramsay said: “The role of our company in this absolutely tragic affair is the source of the deepest regret. Burghill Farms would have done everything to avoid such a tragedy.

“After a discussion with the family, a small grove of trees was planted near the cottage in memory of Thomas, and in response to a request from the family, donations were made to the appropriate charities.”

Mr Hill, from Stoney Cross in Hampshire, had just started a course in fisheries management when he joined Charlotte and her family at Glenmark Cottage.

When it was discovered he had collapsed, Ms Beard used the CPR training she learned at Scouts, to try and revive her boyfriend.

She said: “I don’t think this is something that will ever leave me. I remember falling to my knees. It was dark and humid and I looked up at the sky and I cried and I cried.

“By that point, everyone was dead with him and I couldn’t see how I could go on. The only thing I wanted was to be with him, and I couldn’t.”

Le Cheminant declined to comment.


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