Police probe 'suspicious' gas blast
Damaged houses at the scene of an explosion in the Shaw area of Oldham (Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service/PA)
Detectives investigating a massive explosion that tore through a residential street leaving a child dead are treating the suspected gas blast as suspicious.
Two-year-old Jamie Heaton was killed and Anthony Partington, 27, was left with life-threatening burns after three terraced homes were reduced to rubble following the devastating incident in the Shaw area of Oldham.
Greater Manchester Police revealed investigators are treating the toddler's death as suspicious and said they were aware of rumours that a domestic incident took place in the area of the blast on the previous evening.
Scores of firefighters, police and paramedics were scrambled to Buckley Street at around 11.15am on Tuesday following the booming explosion which rocked the immediate area and sparked an evacuation of local residents. Witnesses said the blast left the area looking like a war zone, with emergency workers rushing to the scene and scouring the damaged properties for survivors.
The most badly hit houses were numbers 9 and 11, with search teams discovering the dead body of Jamie inside one of them. It his believed he lived at number 11 with parents Kenny and Michelle.
Mr Partington, who is not related to the toddler, was airlifted to hospital suffering from severe burns. He remains in serious but stable condition, police said. According to locals the 27-year-old, who was a qualified joiner but had recently been made redundant, lived at the other rented property with his partner, mother-of-six Tanya Williamson.
Hammad Iltaf, whose father businessman Iltaf Hussain is the couple's landlord, said Mr Partington, who is believed to be originally from Rochdale, was at the address with the couple's youngest child at the time of the blast.
Mr Iltaf's brother Waqar Hussain, said the couple and their six children moved into the house only around six weeks ago.
Superintendent Neil Evans said police were aware of local rumours that a domestic incident took place in the area on Monday night. He added: "What I can categorically say is that if that is the case, the police were not called. However, if anyone has any information about this, particularly if they think it might be relevant to what happened today, I would urge them to get in touch."
Mr Evans also said Jamie's family had been left "absolutely distraught" by his death. "This incident has shocked the community of Shaw and I want to reassure them that all emergency services are committed to helping those whose homes are damaged in whatever way we can and to get all others who have been evacuated back home as soon as possible," he added.