Jillian Grant
Jillian Grant's body was found in a North Shields house on Christmas day. Northumbria Police

A man has been charged with the murder of a blind woman whose body was discovered after an alleged arson on Christmas day.

The body of the "deeply-loved" 38-year-old Jillian Grant was discovered in a home in Tennyson Terrace, North Shields, around four miles from where she lived in York Court, Wallsend.

Mark Smith, 41, who lives at the property in Tennyson Terrace has been arrested and charged with Grant's murder and will appear before magistrates in North Shields on Friday (29 December).

Grant's body was discovered after police had questioned Smith in relation to an earlier alleged arson at a property at Eastcheap in Heaton.

A spokesperson for Northumbria Police said: "Following the arson incident in East Cheap, officers conducted a search of Smith's property on Tennyson Terrace which lead to the discovery of Jillian Grant's body."

Emergency services, including a bomb disposal squad and firefighters, attended the property on Tennyson Terrace at around 1.30pm on 25 December. The 38-year-old's body was found after a search of the address.

Smith is also charged with attempted murder in relation to an alleged arson attack on a bungalow in Heaton.

The family of Grant, who was looked after by carers, have now released a statement that read: "Jillian was the kind of person who would stop and have a chat with a stranger in the street. She was friendly, loving and full of life; it was a genuine pleasure to be around her. She surrounded herself with her pets, who she loved to care for.

"Jillian also had an independent spirit, she didn't let blindness stand in her way as she took up opportunities to travel and be a speaker for the RNIB. Above all, she was deeply loved by her family and will be missed by all who knew her."

Det Chief Insp Helen Anderson leading the investigation for Northumbria Police said Jillian's family were being looked after by police liaison officers.

"We believe those involved were known to each other," Anderson said.

"Police will continue to have a visible presence in the area around the address to reassure anyone who has any concerns and to carry out their own enquiries."