Oldham Blast: Man Jailed Over Toddler Death

Becky Johnson, North of England Correspondent

A man who blew up his house and killed a toddler who lived next door has been jailed for 10 years.

Andrew Partington, 28, admitted the manslaughter of two-year-old Jamie Heaton who died when his house collapsed due to the force of the gas explosion.

The toddler had been watching his favourite programme on TV while his mother, Michelle, was hanging out washing outside their home in Shaw near Oldham.

It is believed Partington, who lived next door, had cut his own gas pipes following a row with his partner, Tania Williams.

Manchester Crown Court heard Partington was often violent towards her and the night before the explosion she had left with their five children and gone to stay with relatives in Rochdale.

The court heard Partington then sent Ms Williams messages from his Blackberry, including one at 11.31pm which read: "Told u next time u live me house go. Whith me u left your kids with no dad no home good bye boom gas pipe cut allredy fild up boom."

Andrew Menary QC told the court there was a "massive explosion" at 11.15am on June 26 last year which was the result of the ignition of gas which had built up over more than 11 hours.

The court heard the explosion "obliterated" Partington's house on Buckley Street and the Heaton's home next door.

Police who were patrolling nearby saw debris falling from the sky. When they arrived on Buckley Street they said the destruction was like a "scene from a warzone".

Jamie Heaton was crushed to death under the weight of falling rubble.

Partington suffered 39% burns in the explosion and spent several weeks in hospital. He also admitted destroying eight homes. The court heard the cost of repairing the damage is likely to total several millions of pounds.

When he was arrested Partington accepted he had been drinking heavily before the explosion and accepted he could have cut the gas pipes but told police his intention would have been to harm himself and no-one else.

The court was told we will never know whether the gas was ignited deliberately or whether it was done accidentally, by the lighting of a cigarette.

Adam Roxborough, defending, said Partington was truly sorry and had written "if he could give his life to bring Jamie back he would".

Jamie's parents, Kenny and Michelle, were in court to see their former neighbour jailed and wept as the details of what happened were read out.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday's hearing they described their devastation at losing their beloved son, as well as "everything" they owned.

Mrs Heaton said they were "angry that (Partington) could be so selfish" and that now they were trying to focus their lives on their other two children and the charity set up in Jamie's memory, the Jamie's Something Special Memorial Fund .

Following the sentencing, Ian Rushton from the Crown Prosecution Service said the jail-term would "give Andrew Partington time to reflect on the immeasurable pain that his actions have caused Jamie's family and the extensive damage he has caused to people's homes and lives".