Inventor found wandering streets in blackened pants after
blowing his home up while trying brew his own vodka

  • 10 houses evacuated in South Wales village
  • Graduate inventor creates gift paper and stationery from sheep droppings

Created 2:05 PM on 8th September 2011

A dazed inventor was found outside his home in blackened underpants after his attempt at making vodka went badly wrong - and he blew up his home.

Lawrence Toms, 43, was tinkering with his vodka distillation equipment in his bedroom when neighbours suddenly heard a massive blast, which blew out the windows and the roof of his home. Ten neighbouring houses had to be evacuated before Mr Toms found wandering in his blackened underwear in the street.

Damage: Lawrence Toms was tinkering with his vodka distillation equipment when the blast occurred blowing out the windows
and the roof of his home which is currently boarded up while windows are replaced.

Home-brewing: Lawrence Toms was trying to make vodka in his bedroom when the experiment went wrong

Police were today investigating the explosion and the home brewing apparatus was taken away for examination. Neighbours said Mr Toms had been making vodka at his home after downloading a recipe and instructions from the internet. Next-door neighbour Gavin Rees, 28, said: 'I'd just put my five-year-old to bed when I heard a massive explosion. 'I looked out of the window and saw my neighbour in the street in his boxers and shorts with all his skin burnt off his arms.

'I took him in and ran his burns under the tap until the paramedics took him away.' 

Four fire engines and an ambulance were called to the terraced street in the village of Treherbert, Rhondda, South Wales.Fire fighters battled to control the blaze while Mr Toms was taken to a specialist burns unit. Hannah Knowles, 63, who lives opposite, said: 'I was just settling down to watch Coronation Street with a cup of tea when I heard a huge bang. 'I looked out the window and saw giant jets of flame shooting out of the roof of Mr Tom's house. I've never seen anything like it.

'His windows were blown out but luckily for me his camper van was parked outside and that shielded me from the blast.'  Mr Toms, a graduate of St Mary's University, London, runs his own company called Real Cool Futures.  One of his products is making gift paper and stationery from sheep droppings which has been presented to Prince Charles.

Explosion: Four fire engines and an ambulance were called to the terraced street to put out the blaze.
The blackened windows, smoke stained room and damaged roof can be seen

In 2006 he won a £20,000 Millennium Award for 'social entrepreneurship'.

But neighbours believe he was experimenting by making full-strength vodka using distillation apparatus which he had built in a bedroom. Neighbour Susan Minty, 52, said: 'He was definitely old enough to know better - he's going to wake up with one hell of a hangover.

'It's crazy, you don't go making something like that in a terrance street especially when there's lots of kids about. 'The firefighters told us we were lucky the whole street didn't go up.' Mr Toms was yesterday being treated at Morriston Hospital in Swansea where he was described as 'stable'.

South Wales Police said they believe that the explosion was caused by home-made alcohol. 'The windows were blown out of the property and it was lucky no one in the street was injured.' 'We believe the explosion was triggered by a home brewing kit.

'It's not a criminal offence to brew your own alcohol for private use, unless it's being carried out without licence for commercial benefit.'But officers are satisfied he was making it for his own consumption and this was not a commercial operation.' Instructions available on the internet say: 'Distillation is best done somewhere other than your house for safety considerations.

'Distillation apparatuses are heated by open flames and other means that can cause bodily injury and result in explosions, especially due to the flammable nature of alcohol. 'Leaks in a still or any situation where alcohol or alcohol vapour may end up exposed to flame, can very likely lead to explosion and fire.'

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