THE partner of a pub licensee has appeared at court accused of starting a fire at the town centre premises.

Peter William French, 55, is alleged to have begun the blaze which badly damaged The Weardale, in Spennymoor, County Durham, at about midnight on Thursday December 27.

Mr French, who had been in a relationship with landlady Joanne Robinson, was arrested close to the scene by police investigating the fire at the Cheapside pub in the early hours the following morning.

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He was subsequently charged with arson with intent or being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

During a short hearing at Durham Crown Court today (Thursday February 14) no pleas were taken, but defence barrister, Susan Hirst, said Mr French’s solicitors have been asked to seek preparation of a psychiatric report on his behalf.

The case was adjourned and Mr French, of Canterbury Close, Spennymoor, was bailed to return for a plea hearing at the court on April 25.