A PET lizard had a brief disappearance from its cage, following a break-in at the home of its family owners.

But the bearded dragon, or pogona, was back safely in the heated container within a short time, following prompt detective work by the burglary victims.

The reptile was removed by intruder Kyle Mawson, among a number of items he took following a forced entry at the house, in Shildon, County Durham, during daytime on March 4.

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Durham Crown Court was told Mawson got into the property in Church Street by smashing a rear window, at some point after the occupiers went out, at 10.30am.

Liam O’Brien, prosecuting, said they returned at 1pm to discover the forced entry and apparent “untidy search” which had taken place.

Among the stolen items were £80 in notes, £15 in loose change, medication, including tablets, plus the lizard and its ‘food’, three boxes of crickets.

The householder and his 20-year-old son, who owned the lizard, asked at a nearby shop if they had seen any suspicious activity.

An assistant described a young couple seen in an alleyway and, following a search round Shildon, they came across a male answering that description, with a young woman, at the town bus station.

Mr O’Brien said Mawson was confronted and handed back the lizard, from a plastic carrier bag.

Although he denied stealing it, he was unable to explain how it came into his possession.

Police were informed and examined local cctv coverage, which revealed Mawson leaving the vicinity of the burgled house with a black plastic bag.

He, again, could offer no explanation and was charged with burglary.

Mawson, 27, of Aysgarth Close, Newton Aycliffe, pleaded ‘guilty’ during a video link hearing from Holme House Prison, Stockton.

John Turner, mitigating, said as a “three-time” burglar Mawson accepted he would be subject to the “three strikes” mandatory minimum sentence of three years.

Mr Turner, however, sought a discount on his client’s sentence for his “prompt’ guilty plea.

Agreeing, Judge Christopher Prince jailed Mawson for two years and five months.

But, having read a victim impact statement, the judge told Mawson that the “extremely mean” burglary appears to have had, “a profound impact” on the family whose home he entered and stole from, “ransacking the premises” in the process.