A Falklands War veteran has been jailed for five years for causing a gas explosion which put two people in hospital and caused more £1 million of damage to a residential street.
Ian Lenaghan, 59, cut a hose which fed into his cooker and ignited the gas, causing an explosion which meant eight people needed to be rehomed from Whickham Street, Sunderland.
One heard a “whoosh” then the building collapsed, Newcastle Crown Court heard, while another likened it to a bomb going off.
The former Royal Navy man suffered 80 per cent burns in the blast on February 15, which also left his downstairs neighbour needing several days of hospital treatment.
The blast wrecked properties owned by the Gentoo housing association and one privately-owned flat, and a decision has yet to be taken on whether to repair or rebuild them.
The damage has been estimated at at least £1 million and the fire service’s response of 15 vehicles and 40 crew cost £7,000.
Neighbours lost their possessions and a pet cat was killed in the explosion, Emma Dowling, prosecuting, said.
Lenaghan, a father-of-three, initially denied any blame, saying he was in the loft changing amps when the explosion ripped through his home.
A Health and Safety Executive investigation revealed the gas pipe had been deliberately cut and he was to admit a single charge of damaging property being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
A psychiatric report later revealed Lenaghan had seen media coverage of the Falklands War, where he had seen active service, and it struck him that he had done little of value since then.
Tony Cornberg, defending, said: “He didn’t expect such an explosion, it was ultimately an act that he did in an attempt to take his life.”
Recorder Tom Moran said: “Sadly there are many ways of doing that.
“You chose a spectacularly reckless way to do that.
“Anyone thinking clearly would have seen the way you did it exposed other people to a great deal of danger as well.”