Moment flames take hold behind Gateshead Tesco after mindless arsonist sets series of fires

This is the moment flames takes hold at the back of a supermarket after a mindless arsonist set a series of fires for no apparent reason.

Liam Simpson torched a bin store at the back of a Tesco shop in Gateshead in the early hours of the morning. CCTV shows the fire take hold after he walks away from the scene.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the fire was close to spreading to the shop and left workers "upset". Now the 36-year-old, who caused £3,000 of damage, has been given a suspended prison sentence after admitting arson.

Simpson targeted a bin store at the back of the Tesco Extra, at Windy Nook, Gateshead, in the early hours of April 26. Prosecutor Ian West told the court: "He set fires, in more than one place, in containers at the back of the place before leaving. The fire takes hold."

The store manager said in an impact statement on behalf of Tesco: "The incident has caused store workers to feel visibly upset due to it being our place of work. One worker was in tears as a result of the destruction of the fire. The fire was close to setting the entire store alight."

Liam Simpson, who set fire to a bin store behind a Tesco
Liam Simpson, who set fire to a bin store behind a Tesco -Credit:Northumbria Police

He added that if the blaze had spread to the shop it would have had to close, at a cost of up to £85,000 per week to the company.

Mr West said Simpson, of Cotemede Court, Leam Lane, Gateshead, who has previous convictions but not for arson, told police he had "no memory of it" as he was under the influence of drugs.

Passing sentence, Judge Nathan Adams told Simpson: "You set fire, at night, to cardboard in the bin store, about one metre away from the main building. The fire quickly got out of control.

"It was a large pile of cardboard, clearly flammable material. The fire brigade got to it in time before damage was done to the building.

"There's no suggestion you were targeting Tesco in particular, or any other motivation for this whatsoever. It was simply a very dangerous, reckless act you did while under the influence of substances.

"Arson is a very serious matter as it is very, very easy for fire to get out of control and cause serious damage to property or even people."

Judge Adams said Simpson has a prospect of rehabilitation with the correct support and sentenced him to six months, suspended for 18 months, with drug rehabilitation requirements. The judge added: "The public are better served by giving you that chance rather than putting you in prison today."

Tony Cornberg, defending, said Simpson was under pressure due to caring responsibilities at the time and had taken a mix of medication before he started the fire. Mr Cornberg added: "He is not a danger to the public."