Gang's blast threat at Chaddesden flats was foiled as gas meter ran out of credit
THREE men who threatened to blow up a block of flats in a terrifying stand-off only failed because a gas meter ran out of credit.
Police surrounded the block in Waterford Drive, Chaddesden, after drunken knifemen Wayne Hitchcock, Joseph Smith and Joseph Kilmartin took over a flat.
As police cordoned off the scene, Hitchcock and Smith went on a wrecking spree, even ripping out the toilet and throwing it through a window, along with parts of a settee and cupboards.
They also ripped out a cooker, leading to gas starting to escape.
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Steven Coupland, prosecuting, said: "Hitchcock and Smith were hanging out of the window screaming and waving knives.
"Kilmartin, who also had a knife, said 'we're going to blow this place up, we've turned the gas on'.
"There was a smell of gas and he was seen smoking inside."
Mr Coupland said the gas pipe had been damaged when the oven was ripped out and some gas had leaked out but "thankfully the meter had run out of credit".
Jailing the three men for a total of seven years, Judge John Gosling said it was "one of the worst" cases of public disorder he had dealt with in 30 years.
One police officer described the incident as the "most terrifying" experience in his nine years of service.
Detective Constable Sean Grainger, investigating officer in the case, said: "It was like there had been an explosion in the flat.
"These men destroyed the victim's life. They smashed everything in the flat and even threw the toilet out of the window.
"They broke all his worldly possessions, even items of sentimental value that are irreplaceable.
"They were arrested after a one-and-a-half-hour stand-off with police.
"Some of the group were supposed to be friends with the victim but no real friend would ever cause a person so much hurt."
Kilmartin, who lived in the block, had been trusted to keep a key to the flat by a neighbour. At 3.30am on May 20 Kilmartin had let himself and his two friends, Hitchcock and Smith, into the flat.
Officers had arrived at this point because of reports of an incident in a taxi.
They discovered that a panel of the flat door had been damaged and they asked the men about it.
"They were drunk and aggressive and were all jeering and bouncing off each other," said Mr Coupland.
"Smith was making gun motions with his fingers.
The police called for more officers and as they moved in to arrest the men, Hitchcock said "come on, let's have it", and Smith screamed at officers to "back off".
Hitchcock then threw a plant pot towards the officers, said Mr Coupland.
Derby Crown Court heard that the officers had sprayed CS gas while they escaped.
Outside, officers looked on as items were thrown from the window.
At 5.30am the men gave themselves up and were arrested.
At the scene were 20 officers as well as the fire service.
Smith, 20, and Hitchcock, 29, both of Worcester Crescent, Chaddesden, admitted affray and criminal damage and were jailed for two years.
Hitchcock was also convicted of another offence, racially aggravated threatening behaviour, and jailed for an extra five months.
Kilmartin, 29, of Waterford Drive, Chaddesden, was convicted by a jury of affray and was jailed for three years.
The court was told that the men were all ashamed of what they had done.
The flat tenant, who had been out at the time, told police that before the incident he had considered the three men to be friends and they had "taken everything" from him because he had no home insurance.
Derby Homes said they had found him another property and had repaired the flat at a cost of £1,500.