Man who blew up neighbour's flat in gas blast amid noise row jailed

Robert Russell deliberately uncapped a pipe in neighbour Bill Mazs' flat, which lead to the explosion.

Robert Russell jailed after causing neighbour’s flat to explode by starting deliberate gas leak in Whitburn STV News

A man who blew up his upstairs neighbour’s flat in a major gas blast after a noise row has been jailed for five years.

Robert Russell deliberately caused the leak sparking a huge fireball when unsuspecting Bill Mazs turned on his cooker.

The 60 year-old had earlier uncapped a pipe which ended up wrecking the two-storey property in Whitburn, West Lothian on December 8, 2020.

Bill was left seriously hurt and suffering from PTSD after he and his dog managed to clamber out.

The popular 56-year-old dad has since passed away although not directly linked to the incident.

On Friday, Russell was sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow.

He had previously pled guilty at a hearing in Livingston to a charge of culpable and reckless conduct.

Russell had initially faced an accusation of attempted murder.

A judge heard how Russell struggled to understand why he would be sent to jail for what happened.

But, Lord Lake said only a prison term was appropriate for the destruction and harm that he caused.

He told Russell: “Mr Mazs could have been killed. It is simply good fortune that he was not.

“Anyone deliberately removing a gas fitting shows the highest degree of recklessness.

“It is an obvious danger and shows an utter disregard for the consequences of the actions. 

“People are entitled to expect to feel safe in their own homes.

“You have put forward various excuses or alternative versions of events in an attempt to minimise your responsibility.

“The neighbour who you injured so grievously has died – not directly related to the incident.

“But, I have read the eloquent victim impact statements from his family.

“They set out the understandable serious effect on his life and their view that it contributed to his death.”

The jail term was cut by six months due to the guilty plea.

As Russell was taken to the cells, a relative of Mr Mazs shouted at him: “It is not enough. I hope you rot in hell.”

The blast occurred 12 hours after Russell had uncapped the pipe and Bill switched on his gas cooker to make breakfast.

In the month prior, Russell had complained twice to the local council “about noise nuisance from a neighbour”.

The day before the incident, he then suddenly claimed he was moving and to ignore any apparent concerns.

But, instead, traumatised Mr Mazs was left initially having to douse himself in the shower following an explosion caused by his neighbour.

He eventually staggered onto the street with his dog Misty.

Other residents rushed to help him before he was taken to hospital suffering from extensive burns.

Prosecutor Bill McVicar told the previous hearing how Mr Mazs had been impacted by the horror ordeal.

Mr McVicar said: “He reported in a police statement that he feels like his life had been destroyed.

“He was referred to a clinical psychologist and has suffered flashbacks as well as nightmares and panic attacks.”

Mr Mazs was diagnosed with PTSD having become a “bag of nerves, constantly in fear”.

Iain McSporran KC, defending, said Russell’s “state of mind” had been affected by drug-taking.

The court also heard how Russell seemed “dismissive” when discussing with social workers that he would likely be jailed.

Mr McSporran added: “He appears puzzled. While he cannot see why he should be sentenced to imprisonment, I cannot see any other course.”

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