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Wirral gas explosion jury fail to reach verdict

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Pascal Blasio was charged with causing a gas blast at the Homes In Style shop in New Ferry, Wirral, in 2017

Wirral explosion

The jury in the trial of a furniture shop owner accused of causing an explosion which injured 81 people has been discharged.

Pascal Blasio, 57, was charged with causing the gas blast at the Homes In Style shop in New Ferry, Wirral, on March 25 2017, and of a count of fraud relating to an insurance claim made afterwards.

On Friday, after deliberating for 14 hours, jurors at Liverpool Crown Court were asked whether they would be able to reach verdicts on which at least 10 of them were agreed, if given more time.

The foreman told the court they would not.

Pascal Blasio court case
Pascal Blasio leaving Wirral Magistrates’ Court in Birkenhead

Judge Andrew Menary QC said: “In those circumstances, I discharge you now from returning verdicts in this case.”

Henry Riding, prosecuting, said the Crown would seek a retrial.

Blasio, wearing a navy blue shirt and jeans, was given bail and the retrial was provisionally set for September 23.

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A number of residents who had been affected by the blast sat in the public gallery of court, with Blasio’s wife and two other relatives sitting behind them.

The trial, which lasted three weeks, heard the damage caused had been “almost apocalyptic” with 63 properties destroyed or damaged.

Nigel Lawrence QC, prosecuting, said it was “sheer luck” that no one was killed in the blast, which happened at about 9.15pm on a Saturday.

Among the 81 injured was Lewis Jones, 21, who suffered a serious brain injury and was “left clinging to life”.

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Windows of houses, a pub and the front of a Chinese restaurant, which was full of diners, were blown in by the explosion.

The court had heard Blasio’s business was failing and he was “on the point of bankruptcy” at the time of the last.

Blasio had denied deliberately removing a cap from a live gas pipe and tampering with an emergency control valve, allowing gas to fill the shop, before it came into contact with an “unidentified ignition source” which the prosecution said may have been an electric heater which had been left on.

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