A CARAVAN park barmaid who denied starting a fire at the house from where she was being evicted on the site has made a change of plea and admitted reckless arson.

Lindsey Dent was arrested on suspicion of arson following the blaze which almost completely destroyed the Old Station House, on Dale View Caravan Park, in Middleton-in-Teesdale.

Durham Crown Court heard that the blaze took hold overnight from January 30 into 31, 2018, in the three-bedroom former railway building, at the site entrance.

It was believed to have started within the house, possibly in the living room, taking some time to take hold.

By the time the fire service was alerted, at 4.21am on January 31, it was too late to save the building.

Suspicion fell on Dent, who had been living in the building from mid-November 2017, but who was evicted the previous day by the site manager after falling behind with rent payments, and due to the state of the house.

It was said to be covered in faeces and urine from Dent’s three dogs, which were also blamed for damage to doors and other fittings.

Dent’s possessions were left in the porch and she made six visits during the course of the evening of January 30, into the following morning, supposedly to collect them.

But the prosecution alleged that she spent six minutes inside the building shortly before 11pm when it was suspected the set the fire, returning at 1.30pm to check if it had taken hold.

The defendant was later said to have told two former male friends what she had done, although she denied this and claimed they had colluded against her.

Dent, 43, of Sun Street, Bishop Auckland, pleaded not guilty to reckless arson at a plea hearing in February and maintained those denials at her trial this week.

But, after two jurors were lost from the original trial panel, as a precaution due to concerns that they may know associates of the defendant, Recorder Ian Atherton discharged the jury entirely.

The prosecution was seeking to find a suitable date when witnesses would be available for a re-trial.

But on returning to court, Robert Mochrie, defending, asked for the charge to be put again to his client and Dent changed her plea to guilty.

Richard Bennett, prosecuting, said the guilty plea would only be accepted by the Crown on the full facts of the case.

Recorder Ian Atherton, therefore, adjourned for preparation of pre-sentence reports on Dent by the Probation Service.

He remanded her in custody, pending the sentencing hearing, which was set for September 6.