AN ELDERLY homeowner had a knife pointed at his neck during a terrifying attempted robbery at his home, a court heard.

Michael Sinclair, 34, lunged at the victim after banging on the door of the home he shared with his wife in the Haughton area of Darlington.

David Brooke, prosecuting at Teesside Crown Court, said the man opened an inner door at his home leading to a porch and was confronted by Sinclair who lunged at him.

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He said: “The defendant was half a metre away from him holding a knife with an eight to ten inch blade which he pointed at his neck.”

Mr Brooke said the homeowner tried to shield himself with the door, but not before Sinclair had demanded: “Give me all your money”.

Sinclair tried to push his way through the door and there was a struggle, but the man was joined by his wife and both of them together managed to push it closed, locking it, and calling 999.

The retired couple, who have been married for more than 40 years, both spoke movingly in separate victim impact statements which Mr Brooke read to the court.

The man said he now feared a knock on the door at night as it caused his stress levels to rise, while his wife said she could not sleep.

She said: “I still see his [Sinclair's] shadow at the door and if I hear a noise it makes me jump and my stomach turns over.

“[My husband] may not have been here today had he been stabbed.”

Sinclair, who admitted attempted robbery on January 2 last year, had a criminal record dating back to 1996, mostly for dishonesty-type offences, although he had no previous convictions for violence.

His barrister David Lamb said Sinclair, previously of Haughton Green, Darlington, suffered from psychiatric problems having self-harmed in the past and had also had a drug addiction.

He said: “There is a very different side to Michael Sinclair to the one that presented himself at the front door that night.

“He acted bizarrely and out of character.”

Judge Peter Armstrong barred Sinclair indefinitely from going within one kilometre of the couple's home and said the least sentence he could pass was four years.

The judge said the defendant was heavily intoxicated on the night of the attack, but he regarded that as an aggravating factor, not mitigating.

He said: “This is an offence so serious that only custody can be justified for it.”