THE boyfriend of a woman who died in a house fire more than 16 months ago has been charged by police in connection with her death.

Officers arrested John Collings, 47, in Hexham, Northumberland, following the death of 30-year-old Victoria Barker in a blaze at their ground-floor flat in South Stanley, County Durham, in August last year.

Mr Collings, who lives in the Tyne valley, was questioned at Durham City police station before he was charged with murder.

The arrest came after a long inquiry by fire investigators, a Durham Police spokesman said.

Mr Collings, who shared a flat with the woman in Coquet Gardens, is due to appear before Peterlee magistrates this morning.

At her home in Beamish, near Stanley, Ms Barker's mother, Margaret Barker, said: "She was a delightful human being, a perfect daughter. She was a very clever woman and we were incredibly proud of her."

A post-mortem examination established that Ms Barker died from smoke inhalation, but the cause of the fire has since been the subject of close examination.

Mr Collings was treated in hospital after the blaze but later recovered.