Gateshead retired nurse set fire to her home for the third time in 'cry for help'

Marie Simpson, jailed for arson
Marie Simpson, jailed for arson -Credit:Northumbria Police

A retired auxilliary nurse has been jailed after setting fire to her home for the third time in a "cry for help".

Marie Simpson, 69, had been released from prison on licence after her second arson offence last year when she set fire to her sofa. Newcastle Crown Court heard the latest offence happened at 4.30pm on September 5 last year at her semi-detached bungalow on Lilleycroft, Rowlands Gill, Gateshead.

When the fire service responded to a fire alarm, they saw smoke in the living room and the sofa was on fire. Simpson was in the bedroom and was escorted out by firefighters, who put out the blaze and cleared the smoke.

Rachel Glover, prosecuting, told the court: "When asked by the fire service how it started, she admitted setting fire to the sofa. She said she wanted to die. She confirmed she had consumed half a bottle of vodka."

Police were called and arrested her and she told them she set fire to the sofa with a lighter, adding that she had consumed wine as well as vodka and intended to harm himself.

Fire damage to Marie Simpson's sofa
Fire damage to Marie Simpson's sofa -Credit:Northumbria Police

The court heard Simpson was given a two-year suspended sentence in 2018 for arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered. She had begun drinking heavily after retiring from her role as an auxiliary nurse in 2017.

In April 2018 she was living with her then-partner of 24 years, who went to bed but was awoken in the early hours by her and found the living room full of smoke. She had set fire to a sheet and pillow in the living room, which her partner tried to put out.

When the fire service attended, her partner had to be treated for smoke inhalation and was given oxygen. There were five seats of fire and she admitted setting at least three separate fires. Simpson said she was struggling with her drinking and depression. A family with two children lived next door.

In April last year she was jailed for 16 months custody for her second offence of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered. On Christmas Eve 2022, she set fire to some letters and leaflets on the arm of her sofa, with newspapers on the floor with burnt corners.

There were also "historic burn marks" to cushions which looked like someone had been holding a flame to them at some point. Simpson said she hated where she was living and had no support and that she set the fire because she was fed up and sick of her life.

In relation to the latest offence, she pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered and was jailed for 12 months.

Glenn Gatland, defending, said: "There was minimal damage to the premises. She had nothing meaningful to occupy her time and she was in a highly vulnerable mental state.

"This was a cry for help from a lonely lady with no friends or relationships and no hope for the future." Mr Gatland added: "She said 'frankly I would rather not be released at the moment'. She's welcoming the help she's getting."