PEOPLE living near the Aldershot house which collapsed as contractors worked nearby say it was a disaster waiting to happen.

A wall of the end of terrace house in Queen's Road began to crack and crumble on the night of July 5 and it was torn down by demolition experts the following day.

This left the Sampla family, who had lived there for more than 30 years, homeless.

Neighbours say they feared for the property in the days leading up to the collapse as they watched the contractors clear bushes from an adjoining garden.

Speculation is rife that the workmen, who were employed by Rushmoor Council, dug too deep and affected the building's foundations.

It was also claimed that the wall was weakened when an adjoining house was removed around 25 years ago, and this may have contributed to the collapse.

A woman watching the demolition on July 6 said of the contractors: "They kept digging and digging and digging. You could see what was going to happen."

Brian Paine, landlord of the neighbouring White Hart pub, took photographs of the house just hours before it collapsed.

He said: "I get a lot of building trade in here and they were all saying it looks dodgy.

"Someone came in and said ‘You want to have a look at that, Brian. You want to take some photographs of that because if it comes down it's going to come straight through your pub'."

Mr Paine, 54, was evacuated by police and spent the night of July 5 in bed and breakfast accommodation with his wife Marion and 21-year-old son Chris.

He said: "At 9.30pm the police came in and evacuated us and said we weren't allowed back in. Then they boarded our windows up.

"We couldn't even get in for a change of clothes."

Rushmoor Council is still investigating the cause of the collapse and is refusing to be drawn on speculation.

But even council sources have expressed concern about the work carried out.

One said: "If you have got somebody who comes out to do a cleaning-up job in your garden, they shouldn't be going anywhere near your foundations.

"It used to be a middle terrace. The fact is that outside wall was never designed as an outside wall and its footings were less than they should have been for an outside wall.

"We...should have been very wary about doing any work near that wall."

Factory worker Roop Sampla, his wife and their two sons returned to the house on July 7 to see what property could be salvaged and are now being looked after by Rushmoor Council's housing department.

A security team has been employed to keep people away from the ruin and protect it from looters.

The Samplas have been paid a lump sum to cover their immediate needs and were hoping to have secured a temporary home by the end of this week.

John Edwards, Rushmoor's director of environmental services, told the council's cabinet committee on July 9 that the work to clear the bushes was carried out partly at the request of the Sampla family.

He said: "I can confirm there was a contractor working on a piece of adjoining land and that they were working for the council."

But he added: "It's still much too early to draw any conclusions."

The council has written to neighbours reassuring them about the safety of the site and thanking them for their support and understanding.

Meanwhile councillors have urged officers to complete their investigation as quickly as possible to end press speculation about the cause of the collapse.

Cllr Roland Dibbs said: "If you read the newspapers it's almost like a Marx Brothers movie.

"We need to get the investigation concluded as soon as possible to kill the speculation."