A MAN has appeared in court charged with attempted murder and arson with intent to endanger life following a fire which left his girlfriend with 40 per cent burns and a fractured skull.

Edward McArthur spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth, and address when he appeared at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court this morning.

The 40-year-old, of Geneva Road, Darlington, wore a grey jumper and black trousers for the short hearing, during which time he entered no pleas.

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He was remanded in custody, ahead of a hearing at Teesside Crown Court later this month.

His solicitor made no application for bail.

During the hearing it emerged his girlfriend, Rebecca Major, had jumped from the burning flat in Geneva Road, Darlington, after being doused in petrol.

The 30-year-old suffered burns to her arms, feet and face and remains in a poorly but stable condition in the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

Dozens of firefighters were called to the incident on Monday evening, in which the fire broke out in a flat above a convenience store.

A joint police and fire service investigation quickly concluded that the fire had been started deliberately.

An earlier appeal by police urged witnesses to the incident to come forward.

Detective Inspector Wendy Tinkler, who is leading the investigation, said: "As our investigation progresses we have reason to believe that petrol was used to start the fire and that it may have been stolen.

"Investigations are underway to determine where the petrol has potentially been stolen from and my officers are pursuing a number of lines of inquiry.

"With this in mind I would like to appeal to anyone in or around the Geneva Road area who has recently been a victim of petrol theft - be it from a shed, garage or outbuilding or from the fuel tank of their car - to get in touch.

"It may be that you hold vital information which can help us to determine exactly where the petrol used to start the fire came from."

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800-555-111.