Man shown mercy after filling house with gas in explosion threat

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A CALL centre worker whose cry for help led to a street being evacuated has been spared jail.

Desperate Mark Nilsson sparked panic after he turned on the gas in his flat in Southwick, Sunderland, and refused to let police in.

A total of 20 police officers, firefighters in two engines and paramedics in two ambulances were called to the property above shops in Southwick Road during the night-time stand-off on March 26.

Fears were raised for Nilsson’s safety as the flat filled with gas, resulting in neighbours being evacuated and a cordon being put up.

Officers eventually forced their way into the flat and the 30-year-old was arrested. Nilsson pleaded guilty to causing a public nuisance.

Newcastle Crown Court heard Nilsson had spiralled into such a state after he stopped taking his prescribed medication for bi-polar disorder in the mistaken belief he was better, and told police in interview that his actions were either to kill himself or a “cry for help”.

Jamie Adams, defending, said Nilsson has been taking his medication regularly while remanded in custody for the first time in his life, and now realises the impact of what he did on both himself and other people.

Mr Adams said: “This has been a harrowing experience for him.”

Judge James Goss QC sentenced Nilsson to 12 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with supervision, 150 hours’ unpaid work and £482 costs.

The judge told Nilsson: “You created a significant public nuisance by turning the gas on in your home and risking an explosion, endangering not only your own life but those around you.”

The judge said this was an exceptional case and said Nilsson was not “a criminal by nature”.