A drunken mother-of-four carried out her threat to set light to boxes stored in her bath, starting a fire which led to the enforced evacuation of her home and her neighbour’s property.

Kayleigh Holden sent messages to her estranged partner and to a mutual friend threatening to set light to packaging from her children’s Christmas toys, prior to the incident on December 29, last year.

Durham Crown Court heard that the boxes were placed in the bathroom of her home in Dene Road, Blackhall Colliery, on Christmas Day.

Martin Towers, prosecuting, said on the evening of December 29 the woman living in the neighbouring terraced property recalled hearing Holden shouting at her children, which she said was, “not unusual when she was intoxicated".

Thinking nothing more of it, the neighbour went to bed, only to be awoken later by smoke coming into her bedroom through her loft space.

The Northern Echo: Kayleigh Holden jailed for 16 months for arson being reckless whether life was endangered after

Mr Towers said another neighbour raised the alert and told her to get out of the house, telling her there was a fire next door and it might spread.

A witness told police he first became aware of the fire at about 8.30pm when he saw smoke billowing from Holden’s home and so he rang 999.

Mr Towers said the witness described seeing Holden sitting on the step outside her home with four children.

He saw her go back inside and re-emerge carrying coats, a bottle of rum and a packet of tobacco.

The defendant, who was described as crying and in a hysterical state, told the witness that it was, “rubbish in the bathroom” that was on fire.

Mr Towers said Holden’s neighbour also saw her at that point appearing to be drinking from the bottle, not appearing to realise how dangerous the situation could have been.

Police attending at the property also noted that she appeared to be very drunk at the time.

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A statement given by Holden’s ex-partner, who had only recently left the family home following their separation, confirmed there had been boxes from the children’s toys left in the bath on Christmas Day.

He showed the officers text messages sent by Holden to a mutual friend in which she threatened to set fire to the material stored in the bath.

She also sent messages directly to her ex-partner making similar threats.

Mr Towers said the fire service investigation concluded the defendant had done exactly what she threatened in those messages, having ignited those boxes in the bath.

A statement from the property agent said it was estimated it would cost approximately £3,000 to repair the fire damage.

Holden, 33, of Dene Road, who has been on bail out of the area, admitted a charge of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

The court heard she has no convictions, but just one caution for cannabis possession, on December 31.

Celine Kart, for Holden, told the court: “The root cause for these offences is regrettably her alcoholism.”

Ms Kart said a psychiatric report prepared for the court made the same findings.

“She has suffered with alcoholism and experienced addiction from a young age in her childhood.

“There does not appear to be any indication of a malevolent plan in starting the fire.

“She was probably not thinking adequately about the risk from her behaviour.

“The incident has been a shock to the system.

"She’s ashamed and can’t, frankly, believe her actions on the night of the offence.

“She’s very much, now, at the beginning of her rehabilitation.”

Ms Kart said the defendant has sought the assistance of an institution to help her address her alcoholism and described her as being, "full of remorse".

She said the defendant is considered to represent a low risk of re-offending.

Ms Kart urged Judge Jo Kidd to pass a sentence which could be suspended.

But the judge told Holden: “I have seen text messages you have sent clearly setting out your intention to set fire to the material in the bath.

“I have seen a photo of the sheer amount of material in the bath.

“It would have been obvious anyone setting fire to that material in the bath would pose a significant risk of that fire taking hold and getting out of control.

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“The fact was you did that while heavily intoxicated and apparently oblivious to the obvious dangers.”

The judge said Holden had exposed herself, her children and her neighbours to potential danger, because of her, “entrenched addiction to alcohol to cover and mask mental health problems.”

Judge Kidd said because of those issues she could reduce the sentence to one of 16 months’ imprisonment, but added that she was, “unable to step back from the imposition of it immediately.”