42-year-old caused £50,000 damage to house in gas explosion

The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.
The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.

A man who caused a gas explosion in a Waterside house left himself in intensive care, a court has heard.

Trevor McNeill caused £50,000 worth of damage to the Bond Street property in the explosion.

The 42-year-old, of Ardnabrocky, Drumahoe, pleaded guilty to arson on October 14 2013.

Derry Crown Court heard that at around 10.20 p.m. on that date there was an explosion at a house in Bond Street, which caused extensive damage.

However, no other property was damaged.

The defendant was found lying on the pavement across the road outside a chip shop with burns to his body.

McNeill had made his way there after the explosion before collapsing.

He was taken to Altnagelvin Hospital and then to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast to the Intensive Care Unit.

Fire officers examined the building and found the explosion had originated in a rear bedroom where they found a half full gas canister on the bed.

On examination it was found that the pipe leading to the regulator on the tank had been cut with a sharp object.

McNeill had been a tenant in the house for two years and had recently broken up with his partner.

Earlier that evening he had sent a text to his former partner stating: ‘Love you, but got to do what I have, love you’.

McNeill was not interviewed by police until December 2nd, more than two months after the explosion.

He denied it was a suicide attempt.

The 42-year-old claimed the canister was for a heater and he had fallen asleep after turning it on.

He said when he woke up he lit a cigarette and then there was a flash.

McNeill claimed he did not smell gas after he woke up and said he could not remember sending the text message to his ex-partner.

However, hecould not account for why the canister was on the bed or how the pipe was cut.

Defence barrister Paul Kearney said his client accepted he must have done what he was accused of.

He said alcohol was a feature, but McNeill, who had served in the British Army for six years, simply could not remember anything about the incident.

Mr. Kearney said it was ‘a tragic event where significant damage had been done but thankfully no one else injured.’

Judge Philip Babington said he would pass sentence within the next week and McNeill was released on bail.