A SINGLE mum lost her beloved dog in a blaze deliberately started by a young man, who had earlier been flirting with her.

The distraught owner, Magenta Hart, described her pet, Jess, as her "best friend" and companion for ten years.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that Craig Godwin started the fire just after he and his friend, Chris Black, were both asked to leave the home of the woman's neighbour, where all four had been socialising, because of the behaviour.

They set off walking but Godwin then turned back and minutes later rushed up to Mr Black urging him to get into his home and said, "Look what I've done".

He had gone into Magenta Hart's end terraced house in Woodchurch Road, Birkenhead, which was unlocked, and set fire to a sofa in the living room, said Simon Duncan, prosecuting.

His friend looked out and saw smoke coming from Ms Hart's home and told Godwin to call the fire brigade. Initially he would not do so but eventually did but later 23-year-old Godwin denied responsibility for the blaze and blamed Mr Black.

The victim's three storey home was destroyed in the blaze.

The court heard that Mr Black had bravely gone into the burning house to check the victim's young son was not inside and then went back to search for her dog, Jess, but was unable to find her.

"He reached the stairs but was beaten back by smoke and collapsed but managed to crawl out of the door and saw the fire engines arriving."

Meanwhile the man at whose home they had been socialising helped evacuate an elderly man who lived in the flat beneath his home, said Mr Duncan.

Jess was found dead on the bed of Ms Hart's son, who fortunately had not been in the house at the time. The cost of repairs to the property was £69,790.

A week later Godwin met Mr Black and said if they both claimed they had just come across the fire he "would get away with it" but Mr Black was not happy with this idea.

When interviewed by police Godwin blamed Mr Black and stood trial denying arson being reckless whether life was endangered on August 12 last year but a jury rejected his account and convicted him.

Jailing him for five years Judge Brian Lewis said that it was not monetary concerns that had upset the victim but the loss of her dog. She already had health problems and had been left homeless.

"For all you knew it might have been a child that died not a dog," he told him.

The judge said that he had behaved badly in the aftermath of the blaze and had shown no remorse.

Simon Leong, defending, said that Godwin, of Connaught Close, BIrkenhead, had been drinking and using cocaine and setting the fire had been an spontaneous act and not planned or sophisticated.

He had had a difficult childhood with his parents divorcing when he was eight years old and suffered from domestic instability and bullying at school. He has not drunk much since the incident and wants to start a new life with his fiancee.

He empathises with the victim and recognises she had suffered a terrible ordeal, added Mr Leong.