Brentwood: A “Disgraceful” copper theft which led to major gas leak almost led to major gas explosion

�A gas leak which built up in a community hall for two days after thieves stole gas pipes could have led to a major explosion.

Police believe the thieves broke into Fryerning Parish Hall, in Mill Green Road, and stole the pipes, worth �40, surrounding the central heating on Friday.

The theft led to a potential major gas explosion that could have destroyed the building.

The smell of gas was noticed by contractors carrying out road repairs nearby and neighbours who alerted the fire brigade and police on Sunday afternoon. Nearby houses were evacuated and the roads nearby were closed after the discovery.

Firefighters said the gas was dense enough to have caused a “potential explosive risk”. They used breathing apparatus to enter the hall and spent four hours ventilating it before it was made safe. They broke the hall windows to allow the gas out of the building quickly and safely.

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Keith Brown, from the Ingatestone and Fryerning Community Association, said: “During the break-in the vandals stole some of the piping and in the process cut the gas pipe and the gas poured out.

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“It built up over a couple of days before anyone noticed it.

“The thieves almost deprived the people from having a hall because it could have seriously blown up.

“This is disgraceful because they are spoiling it for others. This nonsense has got to stop.”

The community group Mr Brown is part of is currently renovating the hall, and added that the damage will not stop them completing their work.

“For us it’s extremely upsetting because we are trying to renovate the hall for the benefit of the community.

“But this has not deterred us. We are not letting a few vandals stop us. The only way to deal with these people is to not give up.

“This could have been a serious explosion for a tiny amount of metal piping. They put people’s lives at risk for such a small amount of money.

“They are not going to deter us at all. If anything we are more encouraged to renovate this hall so they don’t destroy the assets for the community. We are not going to put up with this.”

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