Man's kind Christmas gesture could have blown up care home in Instow

A man who tried to rescue a care home’s Christmas dinner by buying them a new cooker almost blew up the 14 residents instead.

Mark Witham had renovated the kitchen in the home in Instow three months earlier, but a flooring contractor broke the door of the cooker.

He discovered it was still not working when he called to deliver a Christmas card and spent £700 of his own money on a new cooker so the residents could have their Christmas dinner cooked in it.

The appliance arrived on Christmas Eve and Mr Witham fitted it himself - despite not having a gas safety certificate - and left a potentially catastrophic gas leak.

Staff at the home realised the new cooker was not working properly and the fault was found by a qualified Gas Safe Register engineer who reported Mr Witham to the Health and Safety Executive.

The 56-year-old from Barnstaple admitted two offences of breaching health and safety regulations. He was jailed for six months, suspended for a year, and ordered to do 120 days of unpaid community work by Recorder Mr James Newton-Price, QC, at Exeter Crown Court.

He was ordered to pay £2,000 costs on top of the £1,500 cost of the investigation which he has already paid.

The judge told him: “You should have been aware of the regulations, given your long experience in the business. I understand you felt a sense of urgency and were concerned the residents would not be able to enjoy their Christmas dinner.

“This can be categorised as wilful blindness but I bear in mind that you have been working for 40 years and there have been no previous incidents and that you are mortified at this offence.

“The culpability is high because the risks are well known and there was immediate danger from the significant gas leak and a high likelihood of harm if it had ignited.”

Miss Felicity Payne, defending, said Mr Witham was trying to do a good deed at Christmas time and is horrified he put the residents at risk.