Sheffield man tried to blow flats ‘to smithereens’ - because neighbours were making too much noise

Flats on Wharncliffe Avenue, where Stephen Burkinshaw attempted to blow up the flats after becoming annoyed with his noisy neighbours. Picture: Andrew Roe

Flats on Wharncliffe Avenue, where Stephen Burkinshaw attempted to blow up the flats after becoming annoyed with his noisy neighbours. Picture: Andrew Roe

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A Sheffield man attempted to blow up his block of flats by sawing through a gas pipe – because he was annoyed at the noise his neighbours were making.

Stephen Burkinshaw, aged 57, used a hacksaw on a pipe in his maisonette flat on Wharncliffe Avenue, Wharncliffe Side, Sheffield, and then fled the building as gas leaked into the apartment.

Judge Robert Moore – locking Burkinshaw up for two and half years – told him: “The whole of this block of four and maybe the next block could have been blown to smithereens.”

Burkinshaw confessed what he had done three days later to volunteers at The Archer Project at Sheffield Cathedral, telling them he had been watching TV news and expecting to hear about an explosion.

When police and firefighters rushed to the scene, there was a clear smell of gas – but fortunately the meter had run out on first day, Sheffield Crown Court heard.

Judge Moore said an explosion would have caused great damage both to the block of four flats the defendant lived in and potentially another neighbouring building.

The court heard Burkinshaw had previously warned neighbours that he would ‘blow the estate up’ if he was disturbed by continuing noise.

He had been watching television when he heard noise from a neighbouring flat on June 27 this year – prompting him to cut through a gas pipe with a hacksaw in his property before leaving.

Three days later, he went to The Archer Project in Sheffield city centre to discuss being homeless and ended up admitting what he had done.

He said he ‘had been watching the news every day to see whether or not his flat had been blown up’.

The court heard Burkinshaw had a previous conviction in 2011 for making threats to set a block of flats on fire.

On that occasion, he rang police saying ‘he couldn’t control himself and was going to burn down his block of flats’.

He later told officers the incident had been a ‘cry for help’.

Clarkson Baptiste, defending, said his client had been self-medicating his depression with alcohol at the time of the latest incident.

He said his client accepted his actions had caused a ‘clear and present danger’ and he would be going to prison.

Judge Moore said he gave Burkinshaw credit for his early guilty plea to a charge of damaging property with an intent to endanger life.

He said: “For three days you left your flat with a sawn-through gas pipe and regularly checked if it had exploded yet.

“Fortunately for the other three flats there was only £17 of gas in the pre-paid meter so the gas switched off on the first day and as each day passed the danger receded.

“In the end all was well but even three days later there was still a smell of gas.”

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