A TIMELINE of how an allegedly vengeful barmaid may have set a fire in the home from which she was being evicted, and how the blaze took hold, was outlined to a trial jury.

Lindsey Norma Dent is accused of starting the fire which almost completely destroyed the Old Station House, at Dale View Caravan Park, Middleton-in-Teesdale, late on January 31, last year.

Durham Crown Court heard that she was behind with rent payments for the three-bedroomed property, on Station Bank, at the entrance to the caravan park.

But the “final straw” for her two-month residence came when site general manager Leanne Palethorpe visited in Ms Dent’s absence, on January 31, and found the recently renovated property, “in a disgusting condition”, littered with faeces and urine from the defendant’s three dogs, which had also, apparently, damaged some of the doors and furniture.

Miss Palethorpe rang Ms Dent to tell for to leave the house and said she would put her possessions in the porch for her to collect later.

She left at 5.30pm, after spending the afternoon moving the defendant’s possessions and cleaning.

The jury was then shown stills from cctv at the house, showing Ms Dent coming and going at intervals during the evening to collect her property, each time arriving in the same Skoda car.

But, at 10.48pm, she pulled up, with the headlights turned off on the approach to the house, entered via the porch, but left, six minutes later via a rear exit.

She did make a further return, at 1.32am, but parked further away and did not go into the property, and merely picked something up from Miss Palethorpe’s pick-up truck, parked nearby, before driving away.

Richard Bennett, for the Crown, told the court: “It’s the prosecution’s case she knew what was going on in the building and kept away.”

Signs of smoke emerging from the house were picked up on the cctv footage 20 minutes later and by 2.37am the smoke turned to flames.

The court heard that the cameras placed outside the house stopped recording at 2.46am, but by the time the fire brigade were alerted, at 4.21am, it was too late to save the building.

Forensic scientist Dr Charles Gardner, a fire expert, brought in to examine the remains of the building the following day, gave his view on how the smouldering fire inside the building may have gradually taken hold, based partly on the time lapses of developments on the cctv stills.

Mr Bennett asked Dr Gardner: “If someone was to deliberately set a fire at 10 to 11 at night, is it conceivable for it to start within the house, but to take a couple of hours for the smoke to be seen outside the building?”

Dr Gardner replied: “Absolutely. That fire could smoulder for many hours until conditions change to accelerate it.”

He said, given that it was most severely damaged area, he considered the fire was more likely to have begun towards the rear of the property, somewhere inside a bay window in the living room, and that it did not start outside and spread internally.

Ms Dent, 43, of Sun Street, Bishop Auckland, denies a charge of reckless arson.

The case continues today.