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Shop explosion which injured 81 ‘an insurance job which went badly wrong’

.Nigel Lawrence QC, prosecuting, told the jury the explosion had been ‘almost apocalyptic’.

An explosion which injured 81 people and caused “utter devastation” was an insurance job which went “badly wrong”, a court has heard.

On Wednesday, a jury at Liverpool Crown Court watched CCTV footage of the moment of the gas blast, which happened at about 9.15pm on March 25, 2017, in New Ferry, Wirral.

Pascal Blasio, 57, of Gillingham in Kent, denies causing the explosion at his furniture shop Homes In Style, on Bebington Road, and a count of fraud relating to an insurance claim he made following the blast.

Nigel Lawrence QC, prosecuting, told the jury the explosion had been “almost apocalyptic”.

He said 63 properties were either destroyed or damaged and 81 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”.

The court heard Mr Jones was still under the care of a consultant in neuro-rehabilitation and had not been able to work since the incident.

Mr Lawrence said: “When you see, hear and listen to the evidence, you will have no difficulty at all in coming to the conclusion that, in this case, it truly was a miracle that nobody was killed as a result of this explosion.

“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.”

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Pascal Blasio leaving Wirral Magistrates’ Court (Eleanor Barlow/PA)

Mr Lawrence said witnesses described hearing a “deafening and almighty bang” and being thrown off their feet by the force of the explosion.

He 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.”

The front of a Chinese restaurant, which was full of diners, was blown in by the blast, leaving customers covered in glass and rubble.

Windows of a pub and nearby houses were also blown in.

Investigations found the explosion had been caused by a build-up of gas in Blasio’s furniture shop, where a cap had been deliberately removed from a pipe and the emergency control valve had been turned to allow gas to escape.

The blast 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: “This was an insurance job, but perhaps one that, given the scale of what happened, went badly wrong.”

Witnesses described seeing furniture being moved from the shop on the day of the explosion and the day before.

They said the shop was “virtually empty” and a sign on the door said it would be closed for three days.

The trial is expected to last for up to four weeks.

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