Mum left terrified after partner she met through Facebook group set fire to her flat

Three people have now been arrested in connection with the robberies. (Photo by Northumbria Police)Three people have now been arrested in connection with the robberies. (Photo by Northumbria Police)
Three people have now been arrested in connection with the robberies. (Photo by Northumbria Police)
Newcastle Crown Court heard she found out he had served time in prison and had previously used drugs.

A terrified mum was left homeless when a boyfriend she met through a Facebook profile about cats sparked a £120,000 "revenge" blaze at her flat after she dumped him. 

The woman thought Robert Gray seemed like a "good person" and they started a relationship after an initial city centre date in October 22. 

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But Newcastle Crown Court heard she found out he had served time in prison and used drugs and eventually told him it was over. 

Gray, who has 154 convictions on his record, then sent a series of threatening and abusive messages to her, turned up at a pub she was at armed with a hammer and then torched her first-floor home in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, in May last year. 

The 49-year-old victim, who had no house insurance, said in a statement she had made her rented home "beautiful" and lost all of her possessions, including irreplaceable keepsakes from late relatives in the blaze.  

She added : "I am technically homeless at the moment and have been since the fire."

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The woman said she now lives between the homes of family members and is financially and emotionally drained. 

Gray, 51, of Wingrove Avenue, Newcastle, admitted arson being reckless to life endangered, harassment, criminal damage and having an offensive weapon and has been locked up for eight-and-a-half years.

Prosecutor Andrew Espley told the court: "The background is she and the defendant came across each other in October 2022 on Facebook. She clicked like on a profile about cats and he messaged her. 

"They had general chat online then met in real life in the city centre. 

"A relationship began. 

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"They spent time at each other's houses. He met her children and grandchildren on special occasions like Christmas and New Year. 

"As is always the case, the relationship was fine to start with. She thought he seemed like a good person. He was quiet." 

The court heard when the woman found out about Gray's prison past she distanced herself as he "made her nervous" and she told him the relationship would not go anywhere. 

The court heard Gray tried to convince her "things would be better" but would get stroppy if she spent time with friends or family and not him. 

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Gray, who claimed the woman owed him £40, sent messages saying he would kill himself if she refused to see him. 

Mr Espley added: "He then messaged her threatening to kill her and torch her property."

In May last year banged on the window of a pub while she was in side with friends, called her a "sl**" and then went inside with a hammer. 

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She hid in the toilets until he left but then got a message saying "just wait until you get back, ultimate revenge".   Mr Espley said the woman stayed with family that night and received more threatening messages, in which Gray warned "I know people" and "I'm always tooled up". 

Gray then left gits the woman had previously bought him, including aftershave, a Hugo Boss watch, coffee and a bath sponge, on her front doorstep before he smashed the back door in and started the fire. 

The blaze was discovered when the downstairs neighbour was woken by a loud "bang" and then saw smoke coming from the property above. 

Mr Espley said the blaze caused £119,424 damage and added: "The flat was almost completely destroyed and significant psychological harm was caused."

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Susannah Proctor, defending, said: "He is deeply remorseful for his actions."

Miss Proctor said the blaze was "unplanned" and no accelerants were used. 

She added: "He has poor emotional control. He took the end of this relationship very badly."