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UPDATE: East Lancs man threatens to blow up house after eviction threat
A FATHER-of-four threatened to blow up his home after being faced with eviction after a dispute over bedroom tax payments.
Bailiffs arrived at Michael Hilton’s home in Meadoway, Church, at around 9.20am yesterday.
They reported him to police after they heard him say that if they entered the property - his home of 30 years - there would be an ‘explosion’. The police said they believed petrol and gas canisters were in the house.
Mr Hilton, 52, was last night in police custody after being arrested on suspicion of affray following a stand-off lasting around three and a half hours.
Two fire engines were called to the scene, close to St Christopher’s High School, as well as around six police cars, two police vans, a riot van and later, police dog teams.
Mr Hilton barricaded himself in the house and refused to come out.
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His estranged wife and eldest son, Johnny, looked on from behind a police cordon in a state of distress.
Johnny, who lives with his father, said: “I knew something like this was going to happen. He has been hounded to pay bedroom tax since September last year.
“My dad has four children altogether and, sometimes, they stay here with him.
“In the eyes of the council, he has a spare room but, from his point of view, that’s a bedroom for his kids.
“I have even tried to speak to the council myself and try to sort it out. I called them last week and told them that my dad has mental health problems. He thinks he’s being persecuted.”
Johnny, 29, who grew up in the house, was in the front garden when the bailiff arrived.
He said he heard the bailiffs say they would ‘kick the door down’ and that his father replied: ‘If you do that, I can’t promise there won’t be an explosion’.
Johnny added: “He has been driven to this and I think that he feels like he is making a stand for everyone that has been faced with the unfair bedroom tax. I am very worried about him.”
A neighbour said: “It was terrifying. If his house went up, mine would have gone up.
“The worst thing is that I knew something like this was coming. I had rang the council myself about him, I don’t know how many times.
“He started stockpiling gas canisters in the back garden. There must be about 20 of them in there.”
Another neighbour, a resident of nearby Queensway who knows Mr Hilton, said: “All of this because of that stupid bedroom tax.”
A crowd gathered at the police line and many of the onlookers seemed to show sympathy towards Mr Hilton.
One said: “It’s the government, this. They are putting these taxes on vulnerable and poor people and look what happens.”
Another said: “It’s been his home for 30 years. It’s a bit extreme but no-one would want to be thrown out like that.”
A team of around 10 police officers entered the house in full riot gear after breaking the front door in with a battering ram at 1.30pm.
Once the police were inside, Mr Hilton gave himself up for arrest.
Nigel Fenton, managing director of Hyndburn Homes said: “I can confirm that action has been taken to repossess this property, however, customer confidentiality means that I am unable to disclose any specific details.
“Any repossession of a tenant’s home is always an absolute last resort and would only happen after we have repeatedly attempted to resolve the issues and help them.
“We always try to support our tenants and assist them in any way that we can. We would always urge our tenants to discuss problems with us so that we can provide our support.
“Staff from Hyndburn Homes were at the scene and worked with the emergency services to ensure the safety of residents in the area.
“We have been made aware of gas cylinders at the rear of the property and we have been working with officers from the council to resolve this matter.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: “We were very concerned as there was a suggestion that there was petrol inside the property and we had also heard reports that he had a large number of gas canisters with him.
“We sent a negotiator in to reason with him but eventually, a decision was taken to enter the house and detain the man.”