A HAMMER-wielding house raider who terrified a couple – including a pregnant woman – after smashing his way into their home has been jailed.
Darren Cooper barged his way into Rebecca Griffiths and her partner Adam Ringwood’s home, in Carlton Street, Hartlepool.
It was the most terrifying attack on wholly innocent occupiers.Judge Peter Bowers
It was just one of three burglaries Cooper carried out over Christmas, including one on Christmas Day itself.
Teesside Crown Court heard Cooper, who had only been released from prison on Christmas Eve, went to demand cash from someone he believed owed him money but got the wrong house.
Cooper, 29, said: “Get the other lads, we’ll smash them up”, before realising his mistake and leaving after swiping some cash from a table.
But a judge said he left long-lasting mental scars on his victims.
Jo Kidd, prosecuting, described how Cooper broke into Ms Griffiths’ home through a kitchen window on Sunday December 28.
Ms Kidd said: “Mr Ringwood discovered this defendant hanging through the window making bizarre threats and demands.
“He was followed by another male who tried to get through the window.
“He said ‘get the other lads, we’ll smash them up’. He was in possession of a hammer.”
Miss Griffiths told the Mail at the time: “It was terrifying. I’m so scared I daren’t be in my house.”
In a statement read in court, Mr Ringwood added: “Rebecca can’t be left in our home and has requested to move.
“I can’t believe a complete stranger has the audacity to smash his way into my home.”
Cooper had previously threatened a man with a kitchen knife after burgling a house in Richmond Street, early on Christmas Day.
After asking the owners in to use the toilet he stole a man’s iPhone and picked up the knife when challenged about it.
The woman who lives there said: “I don’t feel safe in my own house even with the door locked.”
Cooper had only been out of jail a matter of hours after being released from a 14-day sentence on Christmas Eve.
Then on Boxing Day night into December 27, he burgled a couple’s home in Sandringham Road after climbing in through a skylight.
Cooper stole the homeowner’s handbag and sentimental items belonging to her late mother.
The haul included four wedding rings and other jewellery which thankfully were later recovered.
The woman, who has lived there for more than 30 years, said in a victim statement: “These people obviously don’t realise how it makes people feel to have their homes violated particularly at night.”
Cooper admitted two counts of burglary, one of aggravated burglary, driving while disqualified and asked for two other minor thefts to be taken into consideration.
He was jailed for six years and nine months.
Jim Withyman, mitigating for Cooper, said he was thoughtful and decent when he did not abuse drink and drugs.
Mr Withyman said Cooper had taken drugs and gone on the crime spree after being turned away by family members when he was released from prison.
Mr Withyman said: “He wishes to apologise to each of his victims.
“He realises he ruined that Christmas Day for those people and caused great upset to the people’s homes he broke into.”
Sentencing Cooper, Judge Peter Bowers said of the Carlton Street incident: “It was the most terrifying attack on wholly innocent occupiers because you got the wrong house.
“I’ve said before it is not what the burglar takes that causes the worst damage, it’s the distress, the anxiety and feeling of insecurity which you leave behind.
“Two or three of these people might have to leave their homes because of the way in which you and your mates behaved.”