Furniture shop owner jailed for 'insurance job' explosion which injured 81 in 'colossal' blast

Manchester Evening News Incident 2 weeks ago

A furniture shop owner has been jailed for deliberately causing a "colossal" explosion that injured 81 people.

Pascal Blasio caused the blast when he tampered with a gas valve in his shop in Wirral, in an insurance job, a court heard today.

The 57-year-old shop owner, from Kent, was found guilty of causing an explosion likely to endanger life and of fraud, in relation to an insurance claim for more than £50,000, following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

Judge Thomas Teague QC sentenced him to 20 years in prison for causing the explosion and handed him a concurrent sentence of eight years for the fraud.

The blast ripped through a street in New Ferry on a Saturday night in March 2017 leaving 63 properties destroyed or damaged.

The businessman had opened a valve in his shop to release gas and switched on an electric fire, the court heard.

Sentencing him, Judge Teague said: "You have exhibited human selfishness in an almost chemically pure state.

"You did not care who else might suffer as long as you could swindle the insurers out of £50,000, money to which you knew perfectly well you had no right."

Emergency crews survey the destruction caused by a major gas explosion in New Ferry, Wirral

Blasio's wife was in tears as he sat in the dock with his head against the glass.

Judge Teague said the blast was "colossal" and "annihilated" the furniture store and dance studio above it, as well as effectively reducing an entire block of buildings "to rubble", adding that it was a "remarkable stroke of sheer good fortune" that no-one was killed.

The court heard that among the 81 victims of the explosion was Lewis Jones, who was waiting at a bus stop when the blast happened and suffered a serious brain injury.

 

Mr Jones, who was 21 at the time, was in court for the hearing along with other members of the community.

Ian Brown, who had been having a meal in Lan's Chinese restaurant, opposite the furniture shop, when the explosion happened, told the court it felt like a terrorist attack and described the scenes as "complete pandemonium".

In a statement, Neil Mitchell, from Wirral Council environmental services, said: "The explosion in March 2017 was probably the most significant disaster that the council and emergency services in the borough had ever faced in peacetime."

Emergency services survey the rumble at the scene of a major gas explosion in New Ferry, Wirral

David Mason QC, defending, said Blasio, a grandfather-of-seven, had suffered intimidation from inmates in prison while on remand.

He said: "Mr Blasio has lost everything now, his family will suffer."

 

Assistant chief constable of Merseyside Police Natalie Perischine said: "I sincerely hope that the sentencing of Blasio today means people of New Ferry can now start to draw a line under that fateful night and begin to rebuild their lives in the knowledge that Blasio will spend a considerable amount of time in prison paying for his greedy and selfish actions."

Blasio originally stood trial in January but the jury was discharged after being unable to reach a verdict and a retrial began last month.

Before his trial, Contract Natural Gas pleaded guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 by failing to ensure that gas supply pipes were disconnected.

The company was fined £320,000 and ordered to pay £50,000 towards the prosecution costs.


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A furniture shop owner has been jailed for 20 years for causing a "colossal" explosion which injured 81 people in an attempt to claim insurance.
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