The grieving mum of a two-year-old boy killed in a gas explosion caused by a “neighbour from hell” has said his death could have been avoided after terrorised residents’ complaints fell on deaf ears.
George Hinds died after next-door neighbour Darren Greenham cut a copper pipe in his own home in Heysham, Lancashire, in the early hours of May 16 last year, as part of an attempt to sell scrap metal.
But instead the anti-social neighbour caused a gas leak which left two homes collapsed and a third seriously damaged.
Despite the efforts of emergency services, little George died after becoming trapped in the rubble.
Greenham, 46, was jailed for 15 years on Wednesday after pleading guilty to manslaughter, criminal damage to a gas meter and theft of gas.
During the trial, it emerged that neighbours had lodged several complaints to the local council and police about Greenham’s behaviour prior to the explosion, reports Lancashire Live.
Giving a victim personal statement, George’s mum, Vicki Studholme, said: “Before this incident, I felt unsafe in my own home because of Darren Greenham. He was literally the neighbour from hell.
“All kinds of people knocking on his door, even knocking on my door as they had the wrong house, music playing until the early hours, threats of violence towards myself Stephen and even George.
“I do feel although we reported this countless times we have been let down by the council and the police and the death of my beautiful boy could have been avoided.
“Having said this, the police during the investigation have been nothing short of amazing.”
The family moved into the end-of-terrace house in 2019, with George’s dad, Stephen Hinds, often sleeping downstairs out of fear that Greenham or one of his drunken friends would attempt to enter.
Neighbours complained of loud music in the early hours of the morning, as well as late-night hammering and drilling.
Mr Hinds said: “Darren Greenham caused misery to me and my family, I would often sleep downstairs on the couch whilst Vicki and George slept upstairs.
“I was frightened that he would come through our door or one of his friends would. He would play his music until 3am and I was up for work at 6am.
“The threats we received became more frequent even calling George ‘a ginger little c***’.
“This makes my blood boil now, I always did the right thing and reported it to the council and the police.
“Nothing was ever done.”
Eviction proceedings were beginning but no notice had yet been served when the blast took place, the court heard.
When questioned during the case, Lancaster City Council’s leader, councillor Caroline Jackson, said it would be inappropriate to comment in detail at that stage.
She said: “Our deepest sympathies are with the family at this difficult time and my thanks go to everyone in the community who has rallied round to support George’s family and everyone else who was affected by this tragic incident.
“Prior to the gas explosion the council had commenced housing proceedings in relation to 20 Mallowdale due to anti-social behaviour.
“These proceedings were paused on application to the court, after the explosion. As the case is still ongoing it would not be appropriate to comment any further in relation to these proceedings.”
A Lancashire Police spokesperson added: “We have reviewed all previous police contact and we are satisfied that the appropriate action within our policing powers was taken at the time.”
Greenham was handed a prison sentence of 15 years and two months.
Speaking after the sentencing DCI Jane Webb, of the force’s major investigation team, described Greenham as “a selfish and wicked man”.
She said: “To describe Darren as the neighbour from hell would be a massive understatement.
“Not just in terms of the untold misery his actions have caused to George’s loved ones and the wider community of Heysham, but also in terms of his abhorrent behaviour in the months and years previous to that fateful morning.
“This included sickening abuse and insults directed at his neighbours, setting bonfires in his garden and dousing items in petrol, regular late-night DIY activities and more.”