Gas explosion killing boy, 2, caused by drunk neighbour cutting pipes to sell

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Tragic toddler George Hinds was killed in a horror explosion caused by a ‘reckless’ neighbour trying to cut up and flog copper pipes.

Boozed-up Darren Greenham wanted to cash in £400 from selling pipes inside his council house in Heysham, Lancashire in May last year, LancsLive reports.

His late night drink and drug-fuelled money-making DIY scheme sent so much gas flowing into his home that there would have been an obvious sound and smell.

So much as a light switch was all that was needed to ignite the gas and spark the explosion that followed, obliterating his and the two neighbouring houses either side.

Some 55 properties were damaged with six homes evacuated and some neighbours forced to move out for more than a year. CCTV of the blast was played in court and showed a huge flash of light followed by several seconds of falling debris. Photographs of the aftermath showed the extent of the damage caused.

But most tragic of all, Paw Patrol loving toddler George was killed in the explosion and his body had to be pulled from the wreckage, distressing the emergency responders who attended in the early hours of May 16, 2021, and devastating the rest of the lives of his parents Vicky Studholme and Stephen Hinds.

In victim impact statements read out at Preston Crown Court, they spoke of their world being taken away in the blink of an eye and the ongoing pain and trauma which has caused flashbacks, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Prosecuting, Timothy Kray explained that Greenham, 45, had been considered a nightmare neighbour for several years. Through a combination of loud music, late night hammering and drilling, and a rotating flurry of drunk and drugged up visitors.

He would also light frequent bonfires, fuelled with petrol, which grew out of control and was regularly abusive to those living next to him. Shockingly, Stephen Hinds’ statement revealed this abuse extended to Greenham calling two-year-old George a “ginger, little c***”.

A lengthy list of complaints was submitted to Lancashire County Council and Lancashire Constabulary, the former of which was finally beginning the process of eviction at the time of the explosion. Aware of that likely outcome, Greenham had begun stripping the property of any value and hoped to sell the house’s copper pipes to raise money to buy a car.

Mr Kray said Greenham had previously sold copper to scrap merchants, while a friend had seen pipes in his garden.

Referring to another friend, Mr Kray said: “He went round about four weeks before the explosion. Darren Greenham told him that gas pipes were disconnected and there was no gas running through them. He said if he scrapped them, he could get about £400 for them. He said he wanted to buy a car.”

Greenham had earlier pleaded guilty to manslaughter, abstracting gas, and damaging the gas meter inside the property. Entering those, he submitted a basis of plea which stated: “I cut the gas pipes believing the gas supply was turned off. I accept by my recklessness I caused the explosion.

"At the time of the explosion, I was on drink and drugs having been dependent for years. I was the person who arranged for the gas to be diverted.”

Honorary Recorder Robert Altham will pass sentence tomorrow (October 5).

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