On Air Now
The Capital Weekender With Ministry of Sound 10pm - 5am
9 January 2019, 17:15 | Updated: 9 January 2019, 17:27
The court heard a furniture shop owner on the brink of bankruptcy caused an explosion which injured 81 people in order to make a fraudulent insurance claim.
57 year old Pascal Blasio is accused of causing the blast at the Homes In Style store in New Ferry on March 25 2017, when he was a week or two away from insolvency and then filing an insurance claim for more than £50,000.
Opening the trial at Liverpool Crown Court on Wednesday, Nigel Lawrence QC, prosecuting, said Blasio had deliberately removed a cap from a live gas pipe and tampered with an emergency control valve, allowing gas to fill the shop, in an insurance job which "went badly wrong".
The blast, at about 9.15pm on a Saturday night, happened when the gas came into contact with an "unidentified ignition source", which Mr Lawrence said may have been an electrical appliance in the shop.
Mr Lawrence said the damage caused was "almost apocalyptic" with 63 properties destroyed or damaged.
Eighty-one people sustained injuries including lacerations and burns as well as psychological trauma.
Among the injured was Lewis Jones, 21, who suffered a serious brain injury and was "left clinging to life".
Mr Lawrence said: "The explosion in New Ferry on the night of March 25 2017 could easily have led to the loss of many lives.
"It was genuinely luck, sheer luck, that prevented this from happening."
A Chinese restaurant was "decimated" in the explosion and windows of pubs and houses were blown in.
The jury was shown CCTV of the moment the blast happened, as well as before and after photos showing the damage to the area.
Mr Lawrence said: "The scene, in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, was one of complete chaos. People were running everywhere.
"People were lying on the floor, screaming and crying.
"People were dazed and confused. The scene was one of utter devastation."
Witnesses said they saw Blasio, of Gillingham in Kent, moving furniture from the shop in the days leading up to the blast.
The shop owner told investigators business had been good and was "ticking over quite nicely", but Mr Lawrence told the court the "polar opposite" was true.
He said: "He was on the point of bankruptcy.
"His business was on the point of collapse.
"He had already sold off much of his furniture in the three weeks prior to the explosion.
"Trying to start a fire or destroy his shop was his last throw of the dice."
Mr Lawrence said Blasio told a "pack of lies" as he put in a claim for £51,000 plus loss of business to his insurers.
Blasio denies causing an explosion and a count of fraud.
The trial continues.