Hero prevented 'catastrophic' explosion

A CHEMICAL firm worker who discovered his mother's shed torched by an arsonist prevented a major explosion by dousing a gas canister with water until the emergency services arrived.

A CHEMICAL firm worker who discovered his mother's shed torched by an arsonist prevented a major explosion by dousing a gas canister with water until the emergency services arrived.

Louis Willett, of Chainey Pieces in Haverhill, was yesterday publicly commended at Bury St Edmunds Magistrates' Court after it emerged how his actions had prevented an explosion in Broad Street, Haverhill.

The incident unfolded on July 28 last year when Mr Willett discovered his mother's shed had been set on fire by her former boyfriend, Antony Absalom.

Speaking to the EADT last night, Mr Willett, who works for International Flavours and Fragrances in Haverhill, said: “I did what anybody else had done.”

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He said he only found out the shed had a gas canister in it half way through the drama.

“I was worried about other people and damage to people's houses. I didn't really think about it much at the time,” Mr Willett, who had to borrow a neighbour's hose to fight the 15ft flames, said.

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Assistant Chief Fire Officer Gary Phillips said: “He's done an excellent job. It could have gone off catastrophically. We are proud of him. He acted very bravely and intelligently. But there is a balance here and if people are ever in any doubt at all about a fire, they should get themselves well clear and wait for us to arrive.”

Appearing before magistrates yesterday, Absalom, 42, admitted three counts of arson and four motoring offences - driving whilst disqualified, drink driving, not having insurance and leaving the scene of an accident.

The court heard how Absalom, now of Foster Road in Cambridge, returned from a fishing trip to find 51-year-old Grace Costa, his girlfriend of four years, had loaded up his truck with his belongings following a dispute.

She had also placed some of his possessions in a garden shed before changing the locks on the front door of the house. The couple had been separated for some months but Mr Absalom had not moved out of the house.

Sarah-Jane Atkins, prosecuting, said Absalom, after getting changed in the shed, took his truck and raised the trailer before reversing into the front garden and dumped its contents over the driveway and grass.

He then drove off, despite being over the limit, catching a neighbour's car in the process.

But smoke was then spotted coming from the shed in the back garden.

Ms Atkins described how the resulting blaze damaged three neighbouring properties as well as threatening to explode a gas canister stored inside.

But, she said, Miss Costa's adult son Louis Willett doused the canister with a hose while waiting for the emergency services to arrive for which Ms Atkins said he should be “publicly commended”.

Nicholas Wray, defending, said the damage to the wall had been slight and that the shed fire had destroyed many of Absalom's things some of which were “irreplaceable”.

Absalom's conceded he had burnt the shed after “recklessly” leaving a lit cigarette inside but insisted it was not intentional.

For the fire Absalom was put on an 18-month supervision order and told to complete 100 hours of unpaid work. In addition he was told to pay £1,455, which included £50 to compensate neighbours. For the motoring offences he was given eight points on his licence.

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