AN elderly couple who took pity on a career criminal have told how he repaid them - by burgling their home.

Brian Duncan stole money and jewellery from the house in Stockton when he was supposed to be doing the garden.

He was caught in the act when the woman who lived there returned home and found him leaving an upstairs room.

Duncan, a 33-year-old drug addict, took coins from a money box and also stole a Tiffany necklace and earrings.

He was jailed for three years at Teesside Crown Court for burglary and a New Years Eve robbery with his partner.

Claire Robson, 39, acted as a distraction while Duncan snatched a woman's handbag on Yarm Road, Stockton.

Teesside Crown Court heard that he pulled the bag with such force his victim was left clutching only the handle.

The couple were arrested after the contents of the bag were found at their home, said prosecutor Jenny Haigh, where Duncan was hiding behind a fridge.

Julian Gaskin, for Robson, described her as a “vulnerable adult” and said: "She seems to be easily manipulated by others."

She was given a nine-month prison term, suspended for two years, by Recorder Gurdial Singh after admitting robbery.

While on bail, Duncan went on to burgle the home of the couple who he had befriended some years earlier.

The couple were aware of Duncan’s chequered history, Ms Haigh told the court, but they wanted to help him.

"They obtained him jobs, allowed him to go over to their house at Christmas and assisted him financially,” said Miss Haigh.

On June 19 when the complainant had asked Duncan to do some gardening work at her home - but he sneaked inside.

Duncan, of Yarm Road, Stockton, admitted charges of burglary and robbery.

His lawyer, John Nixon, said: “He expresses an apology to the family through me.”