Addict jailed for Camelon flats gas incident

A heroin addict whose usual drug deliveries were disrupted by coronavirus risked blowing up a block of flats when he tried to instead sniff household gas.

By Herald Reporter
Wednesday, 9th September 2020, 7:56 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th September 2020, 8:00 am

Scott Laidlaw (32) cracked open the inlet pipe to his second floor flat in Camelon to inhale the supply.

Falkirk Sheriff Court heard that “horrific consequences” were only averted when a gas engineer was called by neighbours and broke in.

He found the flat filled with gas and Laidlaw lying on his bed surrounded by butane canisters that he had already snorted, emptied and discarded.

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Burnside Court in Camelon where Scott Laidlaw lived

Prosecutor Alex Kirk said the engineer, from gas supply firm SGN, entered the communal entrance of the block at 4.15 pm on Sunday, August 16 to investigate reports of a leak.

He knocked several times on Laidlaw’s door but received no answer.

Mrs Kirk said: “The engineer noticed there was a large hole in the plaster above the door and placed his gas reading device pipe through it and confirmed there was a presence of gas inside.

“He continued to bang on the door to rouse the occupant – with such force that the door swung open.

“He entered and found Mr Laidlaw in the bedroom lying on a mattress buzzing a butane gas canister by sucking on it.

“The engineer asked him to stop this due to the fact that there was a gas leak, and asked where the gas meter was.

“He was directed to the kitchen where he located it in a cupboard under the sink.”

He found there was “severe, deliberate damage” to the gas supply outlet pipe, and also to the inlet pipe connecting the mains to the flat, causing a crack and a large leak of gas.

He called his control room, and emergency services were called to the scene.

Laidlaw told police: “I pulled the meter clean off.”

He was taken to Forth Valley Royal Hospital to be treated for gas inhalation.

Mrs Kirk said the damage caused was £1000, but would have had “catastrophic consequences” if the SGN engineer hadn’t attended when he did.

Police remained on standby at the scene for six hours.

Appearing by video link from Low Moss Prison, Laidlaw, unemployed, pleaded guilty yesterday to behaving in a culpable and reckless manner in the incident at 29 Burnside Court placing neighbouring properties and occupants in a state of danger.

Defence solicitor Gordon Addison said: “Mr Laidlaw is a very troubled man. “Over the years he developed an addiction for heroin and he’s never really shaken it.

“Heroin has been more difficult to acquire during the Covid crisis and to relieve the symptoms and cravings he gets, he has been sniffing and puffing butane gas.

“When he couldn’t get that, because he had no money, that’s what he was trying to do, believe it or not, with the gas pipe.

“It’s clear that if the gas engineer hadn’t arrived he’d have probably been dead, because he’d been sniffing gas and his whole house was filled with it.

“The other consequences don’t bear thinking about. He’s put other people’s lives in jeopardy.”

Sheriff Derek Hamilton jailed Laidlaw for two years.

He said: “This was a major incident. Clearly interfering with the gas supply in this manner could have had significant and quite horrific consequences.”

Last night an occupant of one of the flats said: “The woman in the flat next door to him smelled gas and called the gas company. If she hadn’t we could all be dead by now.

“It was mayhem here that night. The whole of Burnside Court was filled with police cars, fire engines and ambulances.”