A MAN and his friend crept into a neighbour’s house in the early hours while her four children slept and stole a flat-screen television and digital box.
Craig Wharton and Terry Tyers swiped the £1,000 wall-mounted TV and £30 box from Carole Barclay’s home in Sheriff Street, Hartlepool.
Teesside Crown Court judge George Moorhouse described it as an “extremely serious offence” because the children were in the property and it was committed in the early hours.
Opportunist burglars Wharton, 31, who has 40 convictions for 105 offences including two burglaries, and Tyers, 29, who has 12 convictions for 19 offences, swooped after taking a cocktail of drink and drugs, the court heard.
When Ms Barclay returned home they brazenly claimed they saw two men driving away from her house in a white van.
The court heard another neighbour, Lesley Harrison, was looking after the house and Ms Barclay’s children while Ms Barclay visited a sick friend, who also lived in the street.
Prosecutor Deborah Smithies said Ms Harrison left the house around 3.30am to see if Ms Barclay would be returning home that night.
But in the 15 minutes while she was away, Wharton, who had been drinking alcohol and had taken heroin and crack cocaine, targeted the house with Tyers after it became apparent the door had been left unlocked.
Ms Harrison returned and saw two men in the house and she recognised one of them as Wharton, who lived across the road.
After Ms Harrison confronted the pair, they left.
Ms Barclay called police after she realised her TV and digital box had been stolen, and Wharton was arrested.
Out-of-work roofer Tyers was stopped and arrested in nearby Murray Street.
A search of Wharton’s house revealed the stolen goods, which were returned to Ms Barclay.
Wharton, now of Keswick Street, and Tyers, of Tristram Avenue, both Hartlepool, admitted burglary on June 7.
Paul Abrahams, representing Wharton, said there had been a breach of trust.
But he added the burglary was “somewhat different from when somebody else, unknown persons, are in that property and the householder has been left feeling sullied by the people who are in the property”.
He added that Wharton was taking steps to improve his life following the birth of his son and his girlfriend is pregnant with their second child.
Ian Mullarkey, for Tyers, said Tyers’ relationship coming to an end had led to drugs and alcohol misuse and numerous attempts to take his own life, but he had taken positive steps to address his problems.
Judge Moorhouse jailed Wharton for two-and-a-half years, minus 154 days spent on remand, and Tyers was locked up for two years, less 85 days, and given an electronically-tagged curfew.