Gas engineer has been arrested after explosion kills toddler

Published:  28 June, 2012

A 32-year-old gas engineer has been arrested by police in London after a gas explosion in Manchester destroyed several homes and killed two-year-old Jamie Heaton.

Police in Greater Manchester confirmed the arrest to the Manchester Evening News late last night. The engineer, who has not been named, is believed to have inspected the boiler in one of the houses that was later destroyed in the blast on Tuesday morning.

Police have said his arrest is "one line of inquiry".

The explosion occurred at 11:15am on Tuesday 26 June in Buckley Street, Shaw, Manchester. Neighbours reported smelling gas earlier that morning, while reports have also suggested there may have been a domestic disturbance at one of the houses the night before. Police are currently pursuing all lines of inquiry while they investigate.

The Greater Manchester Police released this statement: "We believe the man may have attended one of the properties in relation to the upkeep of the boiler and for that reason we need to speak to him. It is important that the media and local community do not jump to conclusions or speculate about this arrest."

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood said the arrested man, who is being brought to Manchester, is a resident of Shaw but did not live in Buckley Street.

When asked if the man was a gas fitter, Mr Heywood responded: "There is speculation in the community that he was involved in some form of maintenance. That appears to be our understanding as well."

But he added: "I would stress that is only one line of a number of lines of inquiry."

Two-year-old Jamie Heaton was killed when the explosion destroyed his home, and the home of the building next door to where he was living. Neighbour Andrew Partington, 27, suffered severe burns and is still in hospital, where police are waiting to question him.

National Grid has said the blast was not caused by a gas pipe leak, but that they had received reports of a "gas escape" at 10:40am in the same area. It said: "National Grid has not been able to gain access to carry out checks on internal pipes, meters and gas appliances. Greater Manchester Police has now taken control of the site and are treating it as a crime scene."

Many other homes in the street were damaged in the explosion, which blew out windows and doors up to 800 metres away from the centre of the blast.