Man jailed over massive gas blast that killed toddler in Oldham


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The Independent Online

A man who blew up his house in a massive gas blast that killed his two-year-old next-door neighbour was jailed for ten years today.

The explosion obliterated the rented home of Andrew Partington and neighbouring terrace houses in Shaw, Oldham, last June.

The body of toddler Jamie Heaton was found in the wreckage.

Partington, 28, pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Court in November to manslaughter and eight charges of destroying houses in the blast in Buckley Street on June 26.

Jamie had been watching television in the lounge while his mother was doing housework and his father was out at work.

He lived at 11 Buckley Street with his parents Kenny and Michelle, next door to Partington at number 9 and his partner, Tania Williams, and their children.

Partington and Ms Williams had a stormy relationship, according to locals, with police being called to one bust-up.

Neighbours said there was another row the night before the blast and Partington had been drinking.

The next day, at around 11.20am, the gas ignited.

Partington survived and was rescued by the emergency services.

He spent weeks in hospital and still suffers from injuries sustained in the blast.

The cost of damage to the houses and surrounding streets has been estimated at around £1.2 million.

Partington drunkenly cut two gas pipes in his house because his girlfriend had left him and taken their children, the court heard.

He sent a series of Blackberry instant messages to partner Ms Williams on the night before the explosion.

He wrote: "So I guess I have to show you what you meant to me. Never cheated on you. Always loved you. Get f****d now. Goodbye."

In the next message, he said: "Told you next time you leave, house goes up with me. You left your kids with no dad no home. Goodbye. Boom. Gas pipes cut. Already filled up. Boom."

He let his house fill with gas overnight, but said he woke up and cut the gas supply and opened windows.

Partington then lit a cigarette, with devastating consequences.

Sentencing him at Manchester Crown Court, Mr Justice Hamblen said: "The resulting scene of the devastation resembled a bomb site and in some senses it was. It was in effect a bomb that you created and detonated.

"As a result of your reckless actions you have caused the death of Jamie. You have taken away his life and a large part of his parents and siblings' lives."

He accepted it appeared that Partington had a change of heart in blowing up the house when he woke up the next day but said lighting a cigarette was "highly reckless".

"You were aware of the risk but you chose unreasonably to take that risk."

Partington showed no emotion as he was led from the dock.

Partington received an extended sentence and will remain on licence for another five years after his release.

He was sentenced to seven years for each offence of criminal damage, to run concurrently.

Partington had earlier severed a pipe leading to the property's gas meter and one in the rear bedroom, the court heard.

Andrew Menary QC, prosecuting, said Mrs Heaton was hanging washing out in her backyard at the time of the explosion and "remarkably was not injured".

"But Jamie was not so fortunate," continued the prosecutor. "Number 11 was destroyed and the little boy was crushed to death under the weight of fallen rubble."

A number of police officers were on patrol in the area at the time and were greeted with debris falling from the sky in what was described as "a scene from a war zone".

There was a gap in the terrace where numbers 9 and 11 Buckley Street had been and other properties were destroyed or had collapsed, said Mr Menary.

Pieces of furniture and personal possessions were strewn across the street among the wreckage.

Jamie's body could not be recovered until 9.20pm, while Partington was also found under rubble but was conscious and calling for help, said Mr Menary.

He escaped relatively unhurt with superficial burns to the body, he added.

Mr Menary said: "It is a miracle that many other people were not killed or seriously injured as a consequence of the defendant's actions."