Jailed for causing a gas explosion in Waterside home

Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66
Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66

A man who caused £50,000 damage to his rented home in a gas explosion has been jailed for one year.

Trevor McNeill, of Ardnabrocky, Drumahoe, pleaded guilty to arson on October 14, 2013.

Derry Crown Court heard the 42-year-old was injured in the explosion and was taken to intensive care.

He sustained burns to 12 per cent of his body, particularly his hands. McNeill also had scarring on his face.

At around 10.20pm on the date in question there was an explosion at a house in Bonds Street, which caused extensive damage.

However, no other property was damaged.

The court was told the cost of repair was £50,000.

The damage included ‘destruction’ to both floors of the property and the roof.

The defendant was found lying unconscious 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 first to Altnagelvin Hospital and then to the Intensive Care Unit of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

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.

Earlier that night, the 42-year-old had sent a number of text messages to his ex-partner. One of these included ‘love you but I have to do what I have. Love you’.

During police interview, McNeill denied that he had tried to kill himself.

He claimed he had been drinking, fallen asleep and when he woke up had a cigarette.

The 42-year-old said there was then a flash and the next thing he could recall was waking up in the hospital.

Passing sentence, Judge Philip Babington said ‘arson is always a very serious offence’.

‘Here is appears that the defendant acted quite deliberately, albeit under the influence of drink, and sentencing must reflect the grave consequences which can flow’.

The judge added ‘it is inevitable that sentences that are passed on arsonists must contain an element of deterrence to dissuade others from behaving in an irresponsible and reckless manner’.

McNeill will serve half his 12 month sentence in custody and the remaining half on licence.