A RETIRED couple who are afraid to leave their home after it was burgled by a man with 113 previous convictions have branded his 27 month jail sentence as "insufficient".

They were on holiday in France when Gavin Johnson and an accomplice ransacked their home in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, last September.

"They took our whole family history, photos dating back more than 50 years and even took our kids' first teeth," the retired manager told The Northern Echo.

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"They took my father's gold watch, which we were going to leave in our will for my son, and when it was recovered at a pawnbrokers in Darlington, they had taken all the workings out of it.

"They went into every drawer in the house. It has been as difficult a time as you can get, something we will never get over.

"The effect has been absolutely shocking, it has hit our confidence, cost us a lot of money and we haven't been away since.

"We had a very happy retirement for the last 13 years, but this has destroyed our way of life."

He said that the length of Johnson's sentence was insufficient given the shattering impact of his actions on their lives.

"If we go away again we will be thinking what will things be like at home. We are worried that it may happen again."

Teesside Crown Court heard their daughter found the devastation, but cleaned up the mess as much as she could before their return.

Prosecutor Peter Sabiston said there was a "thorough, untidy search" of the property and a huge haul of belongings - including priceless jewellery, heirlooms and irreplaceable momentos - taken.

Jailing the 33-year-old for 27 months, Judge Howard Crowson told Johnson, who admitted burglary and fraud, he had left the house in an "appalling" state.

Mr Sabiston said: "This was an immense amount of valuable property, but the real loss is that those things were irreplaceable - jewellery that belonged to relatives long gone."

Tom Mitchell, mitigating, said: "He apologises for what he has done. He is here to take his medicine. He hopes to make a better fist of his life than he has to date."

The court heard Johnson, of Crosby Road, Northallerton, has a record containing 113 crimes - mostly for offences of dishonesty, and one for burglary.

Despite his DNA being found on a cigarette lighter left at the scene, he was "indignant" said Mr Sabiston, and told police: "It's disgusting. I don't do houses."

A day after the break-in, Johnson pawned a collection of jewellery taken in the raid and received just over £400 from the Darlington shop, added the prosecutor.

Judge Crowson told him: "You have a bad record, and this was an unpleasant burglary. I'm sure you understand that. You appreciate the effect it has had."