A MAN who could not accept the end of a relationship bombarded his former partner with increasingly threatening and hurtful text messages.

Clive Richardson, 47, was thrown out of her home after turning up uninvited earlier this year, but agreed to abide by a police-issued harassment warning, to keep away from the property.

But he flouted that pledge and appeared to keep watch on her movements, making abusive references about her new boyfriend among a torrent of texts.

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Durham Crown Court heard that Richardson’s “brutal psychological torture” culminated in him pouring petrol through her letter box in an apparent recreation of a shocking incident from his former partner’s childhood.

Peter Sabiston, prosecuting, said the woman’s new partner, a visiting couple, her 15-year-old son from a former relationship and one of his friends were in the house at the time, late on May 16, into the early hours of the following day.

Mr Sabiston said that one of the visitors smelled the accelerant on the carpet near the door, and it became clear Richardson was responsible from his final flourish of texts, which began with the phrase “good riddance”.

These made reference to him re-enacting what happened to his former partner’s mother, who was subject of a blaze begun by her abusive ex-husband, after he poured petrol through the letter box.

Mr Sabiston said during their volatile six-year relationship, she confided with Richardson about the incident from her childhood.

He said it was “a serious aggravating feature” of the case as her mother was eventually murdered by her estranged husband in a multiple stabbing.

Another text sent by Richardson, who the court heard dug graves as part of his employment, threatened he would “bury or cremate” her, adding, “because that’s my job”.

Following the discovery of the petrol and the last flurry of messages, police were informed and Richardson was arrested at the address where he was living, in York Street, Catchgate, near Stanley, from where canisters of fuel were recovered.

He admitted a charge of putting a person in fear by harassment.

Thomas Laffey, mitigating, said: “He’s been in custody since his arrest and had time to reflect on it, and now accepts it was reprehensible behaviour.

“He didn’t want to accept the relationship was over, but he does now.”

Jailing him for three years, Judge Peter Kelson told Richardson: “This case involves brutal psychological torture, and incredibly reckless and dangerous conduct, with potential victims other than just your former partner.”

Judge Kelson also imposed a restraining order, forbidding Richardson contacting or trying to contact his ex-partner, “until further order”.