A WOMAN has been left with a bill for almost £1,000 after thieves stole a gas pipe worth only a few pounds in scrap from outside her house.

The 53-year-old says she feels lucky to be alive after the theft caused a massive gas leak at her house in Long Lane, Breightmet.

The two-metre pipe, worth about £10 in scrap, cost her almost £200 to replace, while British Gas has demanded £800 to pay for the gas that escaped before the leak was discovered.

The woman, who asked not to be named, returned home from a day out to find that her heating did not work.

She could smell gas, but did not realise it was leaking from the broken pipe that ran from her garage to the back of her house.

The problem was only fixed when an engineer came the next day.

The woman, a childcare officer, said: “I woke up at 4am that morning smelling gas, and my alarm was beeping as well.

“I could hear a noise, but I didn’t know what it was, so I rang the emergency number.

“When the gas man arrived he said I was lucky to be here and I was lucky the house was still there as well.

“It’s awful, because it’s terribly dangerous. The whole street could have gone up.”

Lucy Coyle, from British Gas, said: “At British Gas, safety is always our number one concern. The theft of copper pipe from gas appliances or systems is a serious and dangerous Crime.

“If anyone suspects a gas leak they should ring the gas emergency services on 0800 111 999 immediately.”

The company has told the couple that the bill stands and she has to pay, but said it will investigate further.

Police have launched a crackdown on metal theft, which is soaring nationally because of high copper and lead prices driven by demand in China and India.

Sgt John Boyce, from the Bolton East Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “This theft has caused misery for a family at a time when money is tight for the sake of a few pounds of scrap. I want to reassure residents that we are doing everything we can to catch whoever is responsible and bring them to justice.”

The theft happened some time between Sunday, and Monday, December 18 abd 19.

Anyone with information can call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.