Man admits horror blast

The remains of three flats in Worsley Mesnes, Wigan
The remains of three flats in Worsley Mesnes, Wigan

A MAN has admitted causing a massive gas explosion which ripped through Wigan flats and left two victims with horrific injuries.

Joseph McPhillips, who has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act since the Worsley Mesnes blast more than three years ago, will be sentenced on Friday.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that on Novermber 29, 2008 a fireball engulfed the second-floor flat in Blake Close where one of the victims lived and he and a friend, who was visiting, were both set alight and had to jump on to the rubble below to escape the devastation.

Prosecutor Gary Woodall said: “Ian Dainty and Martin Mayren were watching television when an explosion occurred in the flat below. There was a loud bang followed by a huge ball of flames which exploded up from Joseph McPhillips’ flat and engulfed the whole second-floor flat.

“It caused the walls of both flats to be blown away. Both men, particularly Mr Mayren, suffered extensive burns to their bodies.”

Mr Mayren, then aged 26, suffered 54% burns, the vast majority full thickness burns to his face, legs, buttocks and arms. He also suffered partial thickness burns to the back of his head.

He had to be resuscitated with oxygen and put on a ventilator and underwent surgery and later skin grafts.

Mr Mayren, who has since died, spent five months in hospital and was left with significant scars to his face and all four limbs.

Both men also sustained inhalation injuries and Mr Dainty, now 46, suffered 25 per cent burns to his face, forearms and back and broke an elbow and finger jumping from the building after the blast about 9.20pm that fateful night.

The three-storey block, owned by Wigan and Leigh Housing, had to be demolished and the total cost of the blast was £349,000.

McPhillips, 49, who also goes by the name of Michael Martin, had been due to stand trial this week but changed his plea to guilty to causing an explosion likely to endanger life.

The court heard that psychiatrists have found that he is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and an indefinite hospital order is necessary for public protection.

The Recorder of Liverpool, Judge Clement Goldstone, QC, adjourned sentence for confirmation that a hospital bed is available for McPhillips.

Mr Woodall had also told the court that after emergency services arrived at the building they found the explosion, which blew some debris 20m, had begun in McPhillips’s first-floor flat.

Examination revealed that the gas meter had been tampered with and a control valve had been left open.

The cause of the ignition was not ascertained but it was found that an adjustable wrench would have been needed to open the valve and McPhillips had bought one that afternoon.

He was not in his flat at the time of the blast as he had gone to a minor injuries unit at 7.18pm and then arrived at Whiston Hospital two hours later, during which time he had opened the valve.

Because of his mental state he was detained under the Mental Health Act and on December 19 without prompting he told a medic that he was responsible for the explosion, but later denied he was.

When later interviewed he denied responsibility and claimed others were to blame.