NEIGHBOURS of a South Shields man have told of their relief after he was jailed for causing a gas leak which they feared might blow up their homes.
Michael Bays rang South Shields Police station to tell them there was a gas leak at his home in the town’s Trinity Walk on Tuesday, March 3, sparking a police and fire brigade alert.
After Bays, 25, was jailed for 16 months yesterday, neighbours told of their fear at the time.
Tammy Stubbs, 36, was evacuated for several hours.
She said: “It happened so fast. I was shaking and frightened. I am epileptic and didn’t have time to get my medication.
“The police officer took me to my mum’s house. The area was cordoned off and there were lots of police.
“My home could’ve gone up in flames. I was really scared.”
Another Trinity Walk resident, Sharon Lamb, 29, and her two children, aged eight and 18 months, were also forced to flee their home.
Miss Lamb said: “The police just came to the house and said ‘you have to get out’. There was no time to prepare. It was a pure shock.
“I think the sentence is right. Thankfully, nobody was injured. Hopefully, he will have time to think about what damage he could have caused.”
Another resident, who asked not to be named, said: “One minute, I was just sat at home after getting in from work, then police are in the street saying we needed to evacuate immediately.
“It is frightening to think about how much damage could’ve been caused and how many lives could’ve been in danger.”
Newcastle Crown Court heard police and fire crews found the gas meter in Bays’ home had been vandalised, and a screwdriver, hammer and a wire cutter were found next to the pipe.
The ground-floor flat was filled with gas.
Emma Dowling, prosecuting, said: “About 50 people had to be evacuated and the area made safe by British Gas.
“The implications of it could have been catastrophic and potentially fatal had there been a fire at the property.
“The crown say it was deliberate rather than reckless behaviour.
“He alerted the police himself. He clearly panicked when he saw what he had done.”
Bays pleaded guilty to criminal damage reckless as to whether life was endangered and also to possession of amphetamine.
He was also in breach of a suspended sentence for abstracting electricity.
Tom Moran, defending, said: “Bays was remanded in custody at his own request.
“His life had become completely chaotic, and he appears genuinely remorseful about what happened.
“There are very few offences where the defendant runs to the police station to report them.”
Recorder Simon Batiste told Bays: “You attacked the gas meter and piping, causing damage to it. It was a deliberate intention to get into the meter probably to get free gas.
“It was not a deliberate intention to endanger the life of others, but given you were in a densely populated area there was a risk to other people.”
Judge Batiste sentenced Bays to 16 months behind bars.