Tenant of fire-hit Belmont flat claims burning frayed curtain edges with a lighter was "stupid, not reckless".

Durham Crown Court hears that cause of Belmont flat blaze was

Durham Crown Court hears that cause of Belmont flat blaze was "stupid, not reckless" act.

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The Northern Echo: Static HTML image by , Chief Reporter (Durham)

A WOMAN who inadvertently started a fire in her flat accepted she was “stupid” trying to burn frayed curtain edges using her cigarette lighter.

But Melissa Ann Sinden told a court she believed it was not, “a reckless act”, as it was something she had done many times without problem.

She said while cleaning and tidying prior to re-decorating the first floor flat in Belmont, Durham, she used her lighter to burn the frayed material, caused by her pet cat, Dave, climbing the curtains, shortly after midnight on March 25 last year.

Miss Sinden told Durham Crown Court that having briefly gone down the hallway, she noticed a “glow” plus smoke coming from the living room as she returned.

On checking the room, the curtains and blinds appeared to be well alight and she “freaked out” in panic, trying to smash windows open to escape.

A passing dog walker who spotted the blaze attempted to usher her out, but she kept going back trying to retrieve Dave.

The court heard that she was eventually brought out by a firefighter, while his colleagues extinguished the blaze, which badly damaged to premises, in The Links, Cheveley Park.

Miss Sinden, who was treated for smoke inhalation and cuts to her hand, was arrested and charged with arson being reckless as to whether lives were endangered, although the prosecution accept no-one happened to be occupying neighbouring flats at the time.

The 41-year-old tenant, denies the charge and said she did not have scissors to cut the frayed edges of the fabric and it was “second nature” to burn them off using her cigarette lighter.

Her trial continues tomorrow (Friday January 17), when the jury is expected to retire to consider its verdict.

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