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Monday, December 8, 1997 Published at 19:47 GMT



UK

Two men jailed after fumes death
image: [ Sonja Hyams, who died after inhaling toxic fumes, pictured with her flatmates (top row, second from left) ]
Sonja Hyams, who died after inhaling toxic fumes, pictured with her flatmates (top row, second from left)

A landlord and a workman have been jailed for failing to maintain a faulty boiler in a house where a student died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

At Stafford Crown Court, landlord Peter Owen was sentenced to two years for the manslaughter of 19-year-old Sonja Hyams. Workman Stuart Royle also admitted manslaughter and was jailed for 15 months.

It is believed to be the first case of its kind in Britain to result in a custodial sentence.


[ image: The flat in Stoke-on-Trent which Sonja and her friends rented]
The flat in Stoke-on-Trent which Sonja and her friends rented
Undergraduate Sonja Hyams was found dead in a bathroom of a shared flat in Stoke-on-Trent last year after toxic fumes leaked from a boiler. Four of her flatmates needed hospital treatment after inhaling the fumes.

She had rented the flat through Keele University's register of approved properties.

The landlord had falsely stated that a gas safety certificate was in place, and admitted that although he knew that every gas appliance needed regular safety checks, no such checks were made.

Investigations by British Gas and the Health and Safety Executive showed that the gas installation was utterly flawed. The boiler was not a room-sealed appliance and should never have been fitted in the bathroom at all.

The levels of carbon monoxide given out were four times more than the accepted safe level. The boiler had never been serviced.

Stuart Royle was not qualified but believed himself to be competent. His lawyer said in court: "He's now a man broken by remorse."

Judge Clive Tayler said he appreciated that the defendants were not "callous men" and that the manslaughter was without criminal intent.

Sonja's death prompted a demand for parliamentary protection for tenants. Members of CO-Gas - The Carbon Monoxide and Gas Safety Society - want to see landlords prosecuted and jailed for failing to maintain safety standards.

Sonja's parents have also spoken out about the case to warn students that they may be vulnerable.


[ image: Sonja Hyams: died from carbon monoxide poisoning at the age of 19]
Sonja Hyams: died from carbon monoxide poisoning at the age of 19
Sonja's mother, Helga Hyams, said: "She got up one morning, she went into the bathroom and she died - it was so stupid. It was so avoidable."

Lat year, the Government launched a campaign to warn about the dangers of carbon monoxide. The campaign stated that more than 100 people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning in the past two years.






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