EARLY that month, a horsebox “the size of a bus” was rammed into a house in an early-hours attack.

The incident was the third involving the same house in a two-year period, and was thought to be linked to an ongoing feud among some members of the travelling community.

Neighbours said the same house was firebombed last year, and had all its downstairs windows smashed 18 months before.

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One eyewitness said: “I was in bed when I heard a loud bang. I got up to look out the bedroom window and heard a car driving away.

“When I went outside to see what had happened I saw a horsebox had been reversed into a house.”

A neighbour who also heard the commotion, said: “I heard a huge bang at 5am. I couldn’t work out what it was. I got up and I saw the horsebox. It was the size of a bus.”

It was believed that no one was in the house at the time, which was understood to have been empty.

In the days that followed, a huge cannabis farm was discovered with an electrical system so bad it was described as a “ticking time bomb”.

A 30-year-old man was arrested when police stormed a large detached house on Durham Road in Bishop Auckland and found almost every room full of cannabis plants all in different stages of cultivation.

As well as the four bedrooms full of plants, officers discovered an electricity supply which had been tampered with. The electrical junction boxes, 42 in total, were in operation with wires running throughout the building.

An electrician from Npower’s Revenue Protection team, who was initially called to make the property safe, said the meter had been bypassed to create one large live wire which was so dangerous Northern Powergrid had to be called in.

The meter had started to melt from the amount of electricity being used. It was surrounded by gas cylinders which the electrician said could have “taken out the whole street”.

Inspector Andy Reeves said: “This is the biggest cannabis grow I have seen in my police service.

“Ultimately we are taking these drugs off the streets so that can only be good for us and it also shows the public that we will act on information we receive.”

Later that month, parents and grandparents spoke of their anger after arsonists set fire to a children’s play area in Darlington’s South Park.

The vandals targeted a pirate ship in the children’s play area of the park, setting the slide alight and melting the framework.

The area was cordoned off by the council after the attack, but parents were still furious.

Julie Bowen, who was later at the park with two of her grandchildren, said: “Why would anyone do something like set fire to a children’s play area? It is just mindless and stupid.”

ONE of the top read online stories of the month, was a mystery practical joker who struck Darlington as a car on Yarm Road was wrapped in clingfilm.

The blue Ford Focus appeared to have had its locks filled in with a foam substance, which turned heads as passers-by made their way into town.

BLIZZARDS caused traffic chaos that month, with cars and lorries struggling through the heavy snow along the A66.

Alison Coatsworth, a member of The Northern Echo Camera Club, captured the moment a jackknifed lorry came to rest across the busy trans-Pennine route.

She reported: “Big drifts are starting to form on the summit.”

Tributes flooded in as Durham Police mourned the death of Police Interceptor PC Gavin Smith, who lost his battle with cancer aged 34.

He died peacefully surrounded by loved ones, including his wife, Kezi, and four-year-old daughter, Tilly.

Mrs Smith, said: “I would like to thank everyone for their kind words and support which has been overwhelming.

“It has been a real comfort to both me and Tilly that he was so well regarded by so many. We will both miss him so very much.”

Meanwhile, the quick-thinking of a grandmother saved a toddler from being hit by a runaway car.

Lilly-Jo Alden was riding a balance bike alongside her grandmother, Katrina Alden, on the way to nursery when they looked up and saw a car hurtling towards them.

The 44-year-old reacted instantly, pulling the youngster to safety seconds before the car clipped the bike. The vehicle then hit another car and came to a stop when it crashed into a tree.

Mrs Alden said: “I didn’t have time to think. I feel like I saved her life. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if she had still been on it."

The runaway was believed to have been caused by a handbrake failure while the car was parked outside Cockfield Workingmen’s Club.

A resident, who was in Whitworth Pharmacy when the incident happened, said Lilly-Jo had had a lucky escape.

“It’s amazing how it got down the road so fast and it just missed the kiddie,” he said.

AT the end of the month, in a court case which sparked outrage, two men were prosecuted for burying a dog alive after hammering a five-inch nail into its head.

Michael Heathcock and Richard Finch said they thought they were “doing the right thing” by trying to kill Heathcock’s elderly dog, which had become incontinent, lost the use of its back legs and was deaf.

Pleading guilty to offences under the Animal Welfare Act, the pair appeared at Teeside Magistrates Court where their solicitor claimed the men had made a “naïve” decision to put the dog down themselves to avoid the expensive veterinary bills.

The two men had taken the terrier, Scamp, to Kirkleatham Woods near Redcar and used a claw hammer to hit a nail into his skull.

Scamp was discovered by dog walkers who were alerted to the grave after hearing a noise. They uncovered Scamp and took him to a vet before calling the police.

Dominic Tate, mitigating for both defendants, said that the pair were concerned about the 16-year-old dog’s rapidly deteriorating health.

The pair were sentenced on March 1 and received four months imprisonment. The case was one of several which sparked a campaign for tougher sentences in animal cruelty cases.