A “neighbour from hell” has been jailed for 15 years after causing a gas explosion which killed a toddler when he cut pipes to sell them for scrap metal.
Two-year-old George Hinds died in the explosion in Heysham, Lancashire, on May 16 last year after Darren Greenham, 45, used an angle grinder to cut the pipe while drunk and under the influence of drugs in the early hours of the morning.
Sentencing him for manslaughter at Preston Crown Court on Wednesday, Recorder of Preston Judge Robert Altham said: “Mr Greenham was a selfish and disruptive neighbour.
“He lived his life without regard for the comfort of those who were unfortunate enough to live adjacent to him.”
George’s father Stephen Hinds clutched a Paw Patrol toy as he watched the sentencing from the public gallery with George’s mother, Vicki Studholme, and a number of other neighbours.
The judge praised George’s parents, who have been living in a caravan since the explosion, for their dignity and said he shared their “incomprehension” that anyone could put the lives of so many at risk for the sake of stealing “a few lengths of copper piping”.
Greenham, 45, who lived next door to the Hinds family on Mallowdale Avenue, was described as a “neighbour from hell” by Ms Studholme.
In a statement read to the court when the sentencing hearing started on Wednesday, Ms Studholme said: “After the explosion, being trapped in the rubble was the most scared I had ever been in my life.
“This was until I arrived at the hospital to be told that George had died.
“Never ever have I felt so scared as in that moment of my life.”
By Darren Greenham cutting a gas pipe to make a few quid I have lost my son, my absolute world
The explosion completely destroyed Greenham’s Lancashire County Council-owned property and caused severe damage to the two neighbouring terraced properties.
The court heard a total of 55 properties were damaged in the blast, which happened at 2.36am.
Timothy Cray KC, prosecuting, said Greenham had been facing eviction proceedings and had been cutting pipes in the property with the intention of selling them for scrap.
On Tuesday, Mr Hinds told the court: “By Darren Greenham cutting a gas pipe to make a few quid I have lost my son, my absolute world.”
Greenham, who suffered a serious head injury and lost much of the use of his right hand in the explosion, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, damaging a gas meter and theft of gas in August.
Another defendant, Paul Marsh, who was said to have altered the gas meter in Greenham’s property so gas could be received for free, was charged with damaging a gas meter and theft of gas, but died before his trial.
Greenham, who showed no emotion in the dock, was given concurrent sentences of one month for the charges of damaging the meter and theft of gas.