Stepdad of Gemma Simpson jailed for arson attack on neighbour's flat

The stepdad of tragic Leeds woman Gemma Simpson - who was brutally killed and dumped at a Yorkshire beauty spot - has been jailed for arson.

Christopher Umpleby was locked up for five years after two women were “seconds from disaster” when he torched a neighbour’s flat.

Christopher Umpleby, the stepfather of Gemma Simpson.

Christopher Umpleby, the stepfather of Gemma Simpson.

Leeds Crown Court heard the incident, on Boxing Day last year, happened at a time when Umpleby had separated from Gemma’s mum Linda.

Their marriage became strained after years of coping with Gemma’s disappearance.

Gemma’s body was found buried near to Brimham Rocks, near Harrogate, in 2014, 14 years after she disappeared from her home in Harehills, Leeds.
Her dismembered body was discovered at the beauty spot after her killer, Martin Bell, walked into a police station and confessed to the killing.

Umpleby’s barrister, Stephen Welford, said the defendant suffered from depression and abused alcohol as a result of the distress of his stepdaughter’s disappearance and subsequent discovery of her body.

Mr Welford said: “The years passed without her body being found.

“One can only imagine the shadow that cast over the lives of this defendant and his wife and the wider family.”

The barrister added: “Mr Umpleby has been his wife’s rock throughout that time.”

Mr Welford explained how the marriage became strained and in

2018 Umpleby moved out of their home to a flat in the Cross Green area of Leeds.

Prosecutor Richard Walters told the court Umpleby had been drinking heavily before making repeated attempts to torch his neighbour’s flat at the property on Cross Green Crescent.

He put a burning newspaper onto the carpet inside the flat as the woman who lived there was about to go to sleep.

The woman stamped out the fire but Umpleby returned to the flat when she was inside the property with her friend.

Umpleby then put some lit cardboard under the door. He said: “By the time they get here we will all be ******* dead.”

The defendant also set fire to carpet outside the second-floor flat.

The women used water to put out the fire.

Police and firefighters were called to the scene and Umpleby was arrested. He pleaded guilty to arson with intent to endanger life.

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The court heard the two victims had suffered psychological harm as a result of the incident.

One of the women described how she felt they were “saved from disaster by a mere matter of seconds”.

Mr Welford said Umpleby did not remember much about the incident as he had been drinking since Christmas Day, which he had spent with his wife and family members.

Jailing Umpleby, judge Simon Phillips, QC, said: “The consequences of your actions could have been horrific.”