A former furniture shop owner who caused a massive explosion on the Wirral in a bungled insurance job, which left 81 people injured, was found guilty this afternoon (Monday, October 14).

A Liverpool Crown Court jury unanimously found Pascal Blasio guilty of the two offences he faced following more than seven hours deliberations and he has now been remanded in custody to await sentence at a later date.

Judge Thomas Teague, QC, told 57-year-old Blasio, who lent his head on the glass screen of the dock when the verdicts were announced, “You have been convicted of extremely serious offences by the jury who saw through the humbug of dishonesty with which you sought to deny them.”

His wife, Sonia, left the public gallery in floods of tears after the jury of seven men and five women delivered their guilty verdicts on the charges of causing an explosion likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property and fraud involving an insurance claim he made after the blast.

During the trial the court heard that there was a “truly chaotic scene in the aftermath of the explosion; one of complete and utter devastation. One almost apocalyptic”, said Nigel Lawrence, QC prosecuting at the start of the trial.

He told how 63 properties were destroyed or damaged in the blast in New Ferry, as were vehicles, and 81 people sustained injuries including lacerations and burns as well as psychological trauma.

Mr Lawrence said that about 9.15pm on March 25, 2017 “the towns of New Ferry, Port Sunlight and Rock Ferry, together with many other parts of the Wirral peninsula, Merseyside and Cheshire were rocked by a huge explosion.

“The seat of the explosion was a furniture shop called ‘Homes In Style’ at 43 Bebington Road, New Ferry.”

He told the jurors that some people were lucky to have escaped with their lives. “It truly was a miracle that nobody was killed as a result of this explosion.”

The most seriously injured was Lewis Jones, 21, who “was sadly, in the wrong place at the wrong time; sat outside the furniture shop in a bus stop.”

He suffered multiple skill and facial fractures, a serious brain injury and had to have part of his skull removed and sustained injuries to his lungs and kidney. “He was left, literally, clinging to life.

“He has been left with serious, life changing and significant ongoing problems and disability and he remains under the care of a consultant in neuro-rehabilitation and has not been able to work since the incident.

The jury saw CCTV footage capturing the explosion, and an experienced police officer “described a scene of devastation that he had only ever seen on news reports involving earthquakes or war zones from around the world.”

Mr Lawrence said that Blasio's “Homes in Style’ shop was served with a main gas supply, via a gas pipe that ran into the property from the gas main in the road outside. The pipe had originally been connected to a gas meter, but this had been removed some years earlier. The pipe was capped off with a blanking cap.

“The blanking cap was deliberately removed, by hand using a tool, shortly before the explosion and the emergency control valve turned from its closed position to allow gas to escape into the furniture shop.”

“This deliberate act allowed gas to gradually fill the property. You will hear that gas has to mix with air to reach a combustible level at which it can ignite and explodes.

Investigators believe an an electric fire found in the debris of the shop may have caused the ignition.

The court heard that on the day of the explosion and day before witnesses saw furniture being moved from Blasio’s store and also saw the shop was 'virtually empty' with a sign on the door saying it would be closed for three days.

But just two working days after the explosion a claim was made to the insurers for £50,000 worth of furniture stock.

Blasio, formerly of Wallasey, now of Gillingham, Kent, who has previous convictions for robbery and shop lifting, denied all the allegations.

The trial was the second on the charges that Blasio faced as an earlier jury failed to reach verdicts following 14 hour deliberations.

At a previous hearing the company who supplied the gas to the property, Contract Natural Gas (CNG), pleaded guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

CNG were fined a total of £320,000 and ordered to pay £50,000 towards the prosecution costs.

Assistant Chief Constable Natalie Perischine, said: “The actions of Pascal Blasio that night were nothing short of reckless. It is only by sheer luck that nobody was killed that night because of his actions.

“Over two-and-a-half years on dozens of people are still continuing to recover from the physical and mental scars they suffered that night and many people have still not been able to return to their homes and businesses. New Ferry has, in effect, been left to pick up the pieces of Blasio’s actions.

“I would like to thank my team of detectives and our colleagues at the Crown Prosecution Service who have worked tirelessly to bring this case to court.

"I would also like to thank our colleagues at the Health and Safety Executive, Wirral Council, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service and North West Ambulance Service for their assistance with this investigation.

“This has been a complex and difficult investigation which has involved a team of detectives working round-the-clock to secure the evidence to bring this case to court and secure justice for the people affected.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the public – particularly the community of New Ferry and those directly affected – for their patience and understanding during this lengthy investigation.

“I hope that today’s verdict means that the people of New Ferry can now start to move on and rebuild their lives.”