An elderly couple who were burgled are now so "highly distressed" that a relative must now stay with them overnight, a court heard.

The 83-year-old former miner and his wife were targeted after leaving for  their weekly eveining visit to a social club.

Durham Crown Court heard that police arrived at the semi-detached bungalow in Stanley, County Durham, and found Edward Short and Christian Allaker inside after neighbours reported suspicious activity.

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Lynsey Colling, prosecuting, said they had entered through a partly smashed rear window and police recovered a glass cutter but both were  arrested before they could take any property.

Short made no reply in interview, but Allaker claimed he went to collect a gas boiler and the window was already broken when he arrived.

But, at an earlier hearing, 40-year-old Short, of Fern Avenue, and Allaker, 54, of Eastfields, both Stanley, each admitted burglary on Sunday, January 27.

The court was told Short is a three-strikes burglar with 72 offences on his record.

Allaker has far fewer convictions, and none for dishonesty since 1990.

Ms Colling told the court the victims are in poor health and now fear being at home at night. A relative now stays with them overnight.

She added that Allaker has known their family for a long time and would have realised the bungalow was inhabited by pensioners.

Paul Cross, for Short, said: “It may just be that, having just passed his 40th birthday, he might realise he’s becoming too old for this.”

Stuart Graham, for Allaker, said he is not in good health and, at 54, accepts he is, “far too old to be involved in this sort of thing.”

Short was jailed for two-years-and-nine-months, while Allaker received a two-year sentence.

Judge Penny Moreland told them: “You both knew you were burgling the home of an elderly couple who would be out at that time on a Sunday evening.

“It’s left them highly distressed.

“You should be thoroughly ashamed of causing such upset to this couple who have done nothing to deserve this.”

Short was also ordered to pay £120, and Allaker £100, as a victim surcharge on their release from custody.