A ‘neighbour from hell’ caused a huge gas explosion which killed a ‘beautiful’ two-year-old boy and flattened two homes after cutting a gas pipe to sell for scrap, a court has heard.
Darren Greenham, 45, used an angle grinder to cut the pipe in the early hours of May 16 last year, causing the huge explosion which killed George Hinds in Lancashire.
George’s family lived in the neighboring property in Mallowdale Avenue, Heysham in Lancashire. A total of 55 properties in the area were damaged by the explosion.
Four others, including his devastated parents Vicky Studholme and Stephen Hinds, were injured after the fireball tore through their semi-detached house and a third home was also badly damaged.
Greenham pleaded guilty to the charges in August.
A ‘neighbor from hell’ caused a huge gas explosion which killed a ‘handsome’ two-year-old boy, George Hinds (pictured)
George’s father Stephen Hinds told Preston Crown Court today: ‘By Darren Greenham cutting a gas pipe to make a few quid, I have lost my son, my absolute world.’
He said Greenham, who was addicted to alcohol and drugs, made life for his neighbors a ‘misery’ and would play music until the early hours and insult George.
Sir. Hinds, who wore a blue Paw Patrol tie and took a Paw Patrol toy into the witness box, said: ‘It makes my blood boil now, I always did the right thing and reported it to the council and the police, nothing was ever done .’
In a statement, George’s mother Vicki Studholme said she felt “unsafe” in her home because of Greenham, a “neighbor from hell” who she said threatened violence against her, her husband and their son.
She said: ‘I feel that although we have reported this countless times, we have been let down by the council and the police and the death of my beautiful little boy could have been avoided.’
She added: ‘After the blast, being trapped in the rubble was the most scared I’d ever been in my life.
“That was until I arrived at the hospital to be told George had died.
‘Never, ever have I felt so afraid as at that moment in my life.’
Darren Greenham (pictured), 45, used an angle grinder to cut the pipe in the early hours of May 16 last year, causing the huge explosion that killed George Hinds in Lancashire
The court heard that the explosion at 2.36 destroyed the Lancashire County Council-owned property Greenham lived in and severely damaged the two neighboring terraced houses. A total of 55 properties in the area were damaged.
Shocked locals described hearing a sound ‘like a bomb going off’ at the time of the huge blast, which sent debris covering nearby streets and fields.
Timothy Cray KC, prosecuting, said that at the time of the explosion the council was considering taking eviction proceedings following a number of complaints about Greenham’s behaviour.
He said: ‘He had removed all the pipe he could for weeks before, apparently because he knew he had to and he wanted to do what he could by selling it as scrap.’
The court heard that the gas meter at the property had been altered so that Greenham could receive gas without paying for it.
A report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the explosion found that wooden floorboards had been removed from the house’s first floor landing and gas pipes had been deliberately cut.
The court heard that the explosion at 02.36 destroyed the Lancashire County Council-owned property Greenham lived in and severely damaged the two neighboring terraced houses (pictured: emergency crews at the scene)
The explosion probably occurred 20 to 40 minutes after they were cut, and there would have been a strong smell of gas and an audible noise before that, the report said.
Peter Glenser KC, defending, said Greenham was sober for the first time in ‘many, many years’ since he was in custody awaiting sentence.
He said: ‘With that sobriety has come a clarity and an insight that he didn’t have through all his years of drink and drugs, and that clarity and insight has enabled him to see for the first time the terrible damage he has caused. ‘
Greenham, who suffered a serious head injury and lost most of the use of his right hand in the blast, pleaded guilty in August to manslaughter, damaging a gas meter and theft of gas.
He will be sentenced on Wednesday.