A MOTHER and daughter who ran a lucrative cigarettes and fireworks trade from their home were arrested after a neighbour died in a house fire started when a rocket was pushed through his letterbox.

Nora Mitchel, 58, and her 28-year-old daughter, Linda, illegally sold fireworks to children only yards from the spot where father-of-two Arthur Lonsdale died in a house fire.

The pair would stock up on duty free goods during repeat trips to Europe, then sell them from their home in Westerham Close, Sunderland - known locally as "the fag house".

The pair were initially arrested during the murder inquiry which followed the tragic blaze in October 2004, although they were never directly implicated in Mr Lonsdale's death.

The 52-year-old divorcee died from smoke inhalation in a fire started when a Little Brother rocket was pushed through the letterbox of his home, which stands only yards from the Mitchels' home.

Earlier this year, a 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was locked up for two-and-a-half years after admitting the manslaughter of Mr Lonsdale.

His trial had heard that the estate was "awash" with illegal fireworks.

During the inquiry, Nora and Linda Mitchel were questioned by officers investigating the supply of fireworks in the area.

A police search of their home found £12,000 in a safe and subsequent checks on their building society accounts found another £50,000.

At Newcastle Crown Court yesterday, Nora Mitchel was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment, suspended for two years, and had assets of £28,100 confiscated. Linda Mitchel was sentenced to 12 months, suspended for two years, and had assets of £5,766 seized after both pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to launder money.

They had claimed they had become involved in the trade through fear of husband and father Alan Mitchel.

Judge David Wood said: "I'm not here to blame either of you for the death of your neighbour Mr Lonsdale, but it's a clear example of how dangerous fireworks can be in the wrong hands."

Detective Superintendent Steve Wade, who led the Arthur Lonsdale inquiry, said: "This sends out a clear message to people thinking of selling fireworks, alcohol and cigarettes illegally.