The farm company owned by the Earl of Dalhousie and his heir Lord Ramsay was fined £120,000 after a student died from carbon monoxide poisoning in their rented holiday home.

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

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

Mr Hill's parents Jerry, 59, and Alison, 55, critcised the time taken to bring the prosecution after Dundee Sheriff Court was told it was six years to the day since their son's tragic death.

Mr Hill said: "Tom was a really special young man and it seems to us what killed him was a series of failures really. It has taken a third of his life to investigate and bring it to court and that seems completely avoidable.

"I don't think anyone comes out of this process with great credit. It just seems that everyone tries to divert the blame. It has been a bit overwhelming

"We are looking forward to the fatal accident inquiry so we can make sure this never happens again.

"Tom was loved by his whole family. From a family point of view it's been 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 any time, he never said he was bored. He always kept busy with his interests like the environment. I'm sure he would have done good things in life."

Thomas's girlfriend at the time, Charlotte Beard, 24, criticised the time taken by the Crown to prosecute the case and described the fines as wholly inadequate.

Charlotte, who was pregnant at the time of the incident and subsequently miscarried, said: "As for the £2,000 fine - it has cost my family more than that to attend this hearing today."

Lord Ramsay was not in court on Thursday - after testing positive for Covid - to hear his Dalhousie Estate-based farm company being fined for exposing holidaymakers to the risk of injury or death from poisoning.

Ex-private school teacher Le Cheminant - who had sub-let the property for the tragic break - also admitted making the same health and safety failings.

Sheriff Gillian Wade said: "The heater in the bathroom should never have been there at all. For a period of seven and a half years, people using the cottage were exposed to the risk."

She specifically criticised Le Cheminant for failing to properly accept responsibility and telling social workers he did not think he had done anything wrong.

"He blames the estate," she said. "He also says that, even with hindsight, he isn't sure he would have done anything different."

First year student Thomas was found dead behind a bathroom door at Glenmark Cottage after succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Fiscal depute Gavin Callaghan told the court: "Mr Hill was, on 28 October 2015, on holiday with his girlfriend Ms Beard and her family.

"The Beard family had rented a holiday cottage - Glenmark Cottage - which is near to Tarfside, north-west of the village of Edzell.

"The Cottage is owned by Burghill Farms, a partnership in the business of farming, sporting and estate management. During the period of the libel the partners of the firm were the Earl and Countess of Dalhousie, and their son, Lord Ramsay.

"It is understood the partners are now Lord Ramsay and the Dalhousie 2021 Trust. The partnership trades as Dalhousie Estates. The estate extends to 48,000 acres.

"Mr Le Cheminant is a longstanding user of the cottage ... and has leased it since 2008, with permission to sub-lease it as a holiday let.

"The facilities might properly be described as basic. Heating and lighting was provided by a combination of gas-burning appliances and candles.

"On Wednesday 28 October, Mr Hill went to take a bath during the afternoon. Around an hour after he went to have his bath, Ms Beard went to check he was OK.

"The bathroom door was locked, and receiving no response, entry to the room was ultimately forced, whereupon Mr Hill was found sitting, resting against the door.

"There was a smell of gas emanating from the gas heater in the room, which was noted to be making a buzzing sound. This was turned off and CPR was commenced.

"Extensive efforts were made to revive Mr Hill by various persons, including the Beard family, estate workers, and ambulance personnel.

"Mr Hill was placed into an ambulance to be conveyed to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, but was pronounced dead en route.

"A subsequent post-mortem examination confirmed the cause of Mr Hill's death to have been carbon monoxide poisoning."

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

They admitted that between 1 March 2008 and 28 October 2015 they failed to ensure gas cabinet heaters were maintained in a safe condition to prevent the risk of injury to holiday residents.

They admitted the heaters were being used in rooms which were far too small and not well-enough ventilated and were also not being sufficiently maintained.

The charges - under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations, and the Health and Safety at Work Act - state 'persons within said premises were exposed to the risk of injury or death as a result of exposure to carbon monoxide.'

Mr Callaghan, for the Crown, said: "It was assumed Mr Hill had died of carbon monoxide poisoning and that was later found to be correct."

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He said an investigation found there had been cracks in the heater and it was found to be producing carbon monoxide wildly in excess of safe levels.

"The charges concern themselves with the more basic issue that the heaters ought not to have been there at all, due to the room volume and the consequent risk of exposure to carbon monoxide.

"The heater should never have been in the bathroom. A competent gas engineer would have identified the risk. Neither Burghill Farms nor Mr Le Cheminant had a pro-active system of maintenance.

"All four gas heaters were in rooms in which they should not have been placed because the rooms were too small and inadequately ventilated. They exposed persons within these rooms to risk.

"There would have been a number of people over the period of the charge. Any person in the cottage over the period would have been exposed to risk."

Mr Callaghan said the criminal case would be followed by a fatal accident inquiry "to examine the issues of gas safety which Mr Hill's untimely and tragic death uncovered."

Sheriff Gillian Wade deferred sentence for reports until later this month and lawyers for both accused offered apologies to the family of Mr Hill.

Outside court, Lord Ramsay said: "We offer our deepest condolences to Thomas Hill's family and friends for their tragic loss."

Lord Ramsay is the son and heir to Scottish landowner, the 17th Earl of Dalhousie. The court was told they had planted a memorial to Thomas and made donations to carbon monoxide and child bereavement charities.

Lord Ramsay said: "Our company's role in this absolutely tragic matter is the source of deepest regret. Burghill Farms would have done anything to avert such a tragedy.

"Following discussion with the family, a small grove of trees was planted near the cottage as a memorial to Thomas, and in response to a family request, donations have been made to appropriate charities."

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

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

She said: "I don't think that it is something that will ever leave me. I remember dropping to my knees. It was dark and wet and I looked up at the sky and I cried and I cried.

"At that moment, my whole world had died with him and I couldn't see how I could possibly continue. The only thing I wanted was to be with him, and I couldn't."

Le Cheminant declined to comment.