Survivor fights for his life after five die in blast at illegal alcohol factory

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The Independent Online

An explosion has killed five people and left another battling for his life with extensive burns at an illegal factory that was manufacturing alcohol.

Police in Boston, Lincolnshire, urged anyone who knew the men, who were believed to be Eastern European, to come forward as officers waited to question the survivor, who was last night having surgery.

The still was behind a stud wall at an industrial unit which was being rented from a local landlord by a Lithuanian who is no longer in the country.

The tragedy comes three months after police, trading-standards and customs officers raided eight premises across the market town recovering 88 litres of potentially fatal counterfeit vodka. The shops are having their licences revoked, although no arrests were made during the raids.

Yesterday local people said the sale of illicit liquor, repackaged as well-known brands and costing as little as £2 a bottle, was an open secret among the large community of migrant workers and the network of continental stores that has grown up to serve them. Trading-standards officers said confiscated drinks contained large quantities of methanol, which could also cause blindness. Police and Mark Simmonds, the local MP, insisted that until the blast on Tuesday night there was no indication that illegal hooch was being brewed in Boston and there was no evidence to link the confiscated alcohol with that being made at the industrial unit. "We must get information into the public domain to make people realise how dangerous it is not just to make it, but to consume illicit alcohol," he said.

Superintendent Keith Owen (pictured) said searches of the industrial unit at Broadfield Lane appeared to substantiate rumours of an illegal alcohol factory. Photographs revealed dozens of bottles kept at the unit. "What I can confirm is that we have found chemicals on the premises which tend to indicate either the manufacture or production of alcohol," Supt Owen said. Firefighters said the fire spread rapidly through the premises with the intense heat buckling the steel shutters.