Great-gran killed in gas blast that obliterated home while waiting for engineer

A great-grandmother was killed in a house explosion believed to be caused by “decades-old” faulty copper gas pipes.

Doreen Mace, from Erdington, Birmingham, died in a blast that caused what the coroner described as a “Hollywood film-esque level of destruction”.

The incident occurred at the home owned by her partner, David Murphy, on Dulwich Road, Kingstanding on June 26, 2022.

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During an inquest into her death, Dorren’s relatives described her as a “once-in-a-lifetime soul”.

At the inquest today (January 16) an 11-member jury was shown images of a “gas pipe separation under (the) floor of (the) living room” – it’s believed this was the centre of the explosion.

David reported smelling gas to the UK gas distribution network Cadent at 8.22 pm that Sunday.

He also noted his hob was no longer working and the meter was “making a noise”.

He was told by a call handler “not to use any source of ignition, to ventilate the house” and that an engineer would arrive “within the hour”, Birmingham and Solihull Area Coroner James Bennett said.

15 minutes later the house exploded.

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Neighbours called 999, telling operators they had heard a “huge bang” and that the property had been “flattened” and was “completely missing”.

Doreen’s body was recovered under three feet of rubble towards the front of the property.

David sustained “significant injuries” but survived because he was standing in the kitchen at the time of the blast – shielded by the fridge.

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Members of the public found him beneath the rubble and carried him to safety using a mattress.

The ex-Birmingham City Council house was nearly 100 years old, with the inquest hearing the boiler was not working at the time of the blast.

David was selling the property and had accepted an offer. Estate agent particulars recorded the problem with the floor, accompanied by photos, and the lack of a working boiler.

West Midlands Police Detective Inspector Ranj Sangha confirmed in evidence.

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Tracing the history of the pipework, Detective Sangha said police contacted Gas Safe, whose records only dated back to 2009, and also Birmingham Council, but officers were told “no-one holds records that far back”.

Summarising other evidence, Mr Bennett said the “best estimate” was that the pipe “had been there at least 50 years, but cannot exclude the possibility it was original pipework when the house was built in or before 1928”.

The coroner said that “many years ago – potentially decades”, whoever installed the gas pipe had used a type of fitting which needed “soldering”, but had not done so.


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