A GAS explosion which left a man fighting for his life and a house partially destroyed was caused by deliberate tampering with gas pipes, police have now confirmed.

The blast, in the Skerne Park area of Darlington last month, blew the tenant of an upstairs flat out of the window and into the back garden in flames, as neighbours battled to save him.

The victim, who was named locally as John Metcalfe, remains in a serious condition in hospital, more than six weeks after the explosion on Wordsworth Avenue.

He was the resident of an upstairs council flat, while the downstairs flat was unoccupied at the time.

A spokeswoman for Durham Constabulary told The Northern Echo: “We can confirm that the leak was caused by deliberate tampering of a gas pipe within the unoccupied ground floor flat of the property.

“Investigations are ongoing, with experts working to establish exactly how and when it happened.

“The victim remains in a serious condition in hospital.”

It took some days before the investigation could begin properly because the property was unstable, with a huge crack down the front, and the gable end of the property had to be partially demolished to allow forensic science teams to get in and gather more evidence.

Expert scientific analysis and reports were carried out to pinpoint the exact cause.

Neighbours described at the time how the impact of the blast had blown Mr Metcalfe into the back garden where he lay in flames, shouting and screaming.

The first floor windows in the damaged property were blown out, while the roof suffered extensive damage with the upper part of the gable end exposed.

Some neighbours were evacuated until the neighbouring properties and gas supply were made safe.