AN evicted tenant of a Grade-II listed building sought revenge on the site manager by returning at night to set the empty property on fire.

Lindsey Dent made a further visit to the Old Station House, at the entrance to Dale View Caravan Park, in Middleton-in-Teesdale, in the early hours of January 31, 2018, to ensure the blaze had taken hold.

Durham Crown Court was told in the aftermath of the fire, which severely damaged the Victorian-built property, she began a local whispering campaign implying site manager Leanne Palethorpe was responsible.

The court was told Miss Palethorpe told Dent to leave the house the previous day on discovering the state it was in, covered in faeces and urine from her tenant’s dogs.

Miss Palethorpe previously allowed Dent, who worked in the site bar, to live in the house during the off-season, as a favour, at a reduced rent charge.

Dent, 43, of Sun Street, Bishop Auckland, denied arson being reckless as to whether life or property was endangered.

But on the third day of her trial, at the court in June, she changed her plea to guilty.

The court was told she claimed to have carelessly discarded a cigarette at the property, when collecting her possessions.

But the prosecution did not accept her account, as it was at odds with the opinion of a fire expert, who believed an accelerant was used.

It emerged Dent told two male friends that is how she started the fire, under a sofa, In the living room.

Recorder Ian Atherton, who presided over the trial, said given the “overwhelming evidence” of the expert: “I’m sure the fire was started deliberately, and I’ll sentence on that basis.”

Richard Bennett, prosecuting, told the sentencing hearing that due to concerns locally that the remains of the building, owned and leased off by Durham County Council, had been left “an eyesore” it was recently demolished.

Mr Bennett said estimates over the cost of replacing it in full or part vary from £300,000 to £800,000 and no decision has been made.

But he added that the fire had caused a great loss of income to the business.

Keith Allen, for Dent, referring to a psychiatric report prepared for the hearing, told the court she had a “difficult start to life” and, combined with her use of cannabis, had an effect on her mental health at the time.

He said while in custody she has self-withdrawn from cannabis use and “made genuine efforts” to address issues in her life.

Mr Allen added that the risk caused by the fire was to the property and not so much to human life, as the site was closed and the building was unoccupied at the time.

Imposing a four-and-a-half year prison sentence, Recorder Atherton told Dent: “I find overwhelmingly that you deliberately started the fire.

“This was a revenge attack. You were rightly put out of that property by Leanne Palethorpe because it was left in a disgusting state and her family then suffered a whispering campaign against them.”

Recorder Atherton also imposed a ten-year restraining order preventing Dent from contacting or communicating with Miss Palethorpe.