The quiet neighbourhood of Hawthorne Street, Leichhardt was rocked in the early hours of the morning on March 15, when the front of a two-storey house exploded into flames at approximately 1.30am.
A mother and her child residing in the rear end of the divided house were fortunate to escape unharmed.
“I was awake when it exploded and then I smelt smoke, gas and a lot of dust followed,” she said. “I was able to quickly grab my daughter and run to the door. One of the neighbours was already bashing on my door and yelling, ‘Get out!’ We got out without a scratch. We were very lucky.”
It has been suggested a clandestine drug lab was the source of the explosion.
A neighbour reported that shortly after the blast, a man was seen fleeing from the house. The same man was arrested after appearing at Balmain Police station with his solicitor, covered in severe burns. He is presently in hospital in a critical condition.
Neighbours said he had only been renting there for six months and was supposedly moving out.
“The guy who lived there would often come downstairs, look around, lock the door and close the blinds. So it was quite suspicious how he behaved,” a neighbour said.
The mother of the daughter living directly behind the suspect described him as “withdrawn”.
Professor John Edwards from Flinders University, a specialist on the subject of clandestine home drug labs, said the frequency of home labs exploding is on the rise.
“Neighbourhoods should be sure to keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour such as strange traffic patterns, drawn blinds, hostile personalities, ventilation hoses hanging out of windows,” he said. “It can be happening even in the quiet and safe suburbs. You could even say it is more likely to occur in such areas. It is good cover. These labs are very harmful as the manufacturing process involves toxic and explosive chemicals and waste.”
A spokesman for Glebe Police station said he was unable to offer any further updates on the case. Inquiries are continuing.
by Jacob Moss