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A heating installer from Plymouth has been jailed for two years for deliberately sabotaging domestic gas boilers in a bid to discredit rival firms. Michael O’Brien, a qualified gas engineer, lost a contract to carry out work at various Ministry of Defence Homes and then decided to undermine his competitors by tampering with their installations.
O’Brien lost the MOD contract in February 2017 after taking an unauthorised person on site with him. He then obtained information about where new boilers had recently been installed on the site and then visited three homes, telling the owners that he needed to carry out final checks.
He gained entry to two of the homes and then tampered with the gas pipe and meter with the intention of causing a gas leak. He told the owners to call the number on the gas meter if they smelled gas. A subsequent investigation found that the most serious leakage was directly beneath a children’s bedroom.
The defendant pleaded guilty to causing criminal damage and being reckless as to whether lives were in danger. O’Brien admitted that he had been ‘utterly stupid, reckless and illogical’ in his thought process.
Exeter Crown Court was told that his reckless actions could have caused a tragic explosion. Judge Rose told O’Brien that he had exposed families ‘to the risk of very serious harm indeed and, in theory, possible death’ for financial gain.
After the hearing, DC Tina Worthington of Devon and Cornwall Police said: “This was a reckless and dangerous act which, had it not been noticed, could have had devastating consequences which cannot be underestimated.”