Gateshead mother avoids prison after kicking out children and burning house down at 3am

A Gateshead mother kicked her children out of the house in the early hours of the morning before setting it on fire, unable to take any more.

Cheryl Duggan was “struggling to cope with her life” when she attempted to commit suicide by burning the house down, causing £10,000 worth of damage in the process.

Pleading guilty to a charge of Arson, she has been given a suspended sentence at Newcastle Crown court.

The court heard that in October last year she was living with her three children at Friary Gardens, Gateshead. At 3am emergency services attended the home after reports of a fire.

The prosecutor said that her father had taken her children in after the defendant kicked them out of the house at 2am, telling them it would not be there when they got back.

Firefighters were able to control the situation and brought her to safety, with her having set fire to the furniture and “wanted it to be over when the kids were out”.

She was taken to hospital, where she remained for a week. Miss Glover said: “She said she had been struggling and everything got on top of her. She said she had no life, just taking the children to school and and working in a chip shop.

“She said she had been arguing with a male before the incident and she saw red and snapped. She said she intended to kill herself but had no intention to hurt anyone else.”

The court heard there was severe fire, heat and smoke damage to the council-owned semi-detached house and the repair bill was £10,775.

The nextdoor neighbours were home at the time and one of them was still in bed when the firefighters arrived and had to be told to leave the house but the damage was confined to Duggan’s home.

The 38-year-old, who has no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered and was sentenced to two years suspended for two years with 200 hours unpaid work and rehabilitation.

Judge Julie Clemitson told her: “What you did caused a significant risk to the people next door, the people who arrived to try to help you and the emergency services who arrived.

“I’ve read about your difficulties with rats and so forth in your home. Things like that and arguments with your partner can sometimes be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. You were feeling overwhelmed by your situation and it was an extreme response to your situation.

“It’s clear it was what the lay person would call a nervous breakdown in the context of depression. You are genuinely remorseful for your actions that morning and you were the only one to suffer physical harm.”

Jane Foley, defending, said: “This is a very sad case. It’s all about a woman who was trying her best but was struggling and she felt as if she was letting everyone down. She couldn’t see a way out of a situation that was becoming increasingly difficult.

“She saw her responsibilities as enormous and was not able to see the sense in looking for help. She’s a mother-of-four, three of whom are dependent and she was the sole carer for those children.