THREE men were plundering a house under renovation, trying to steal wiring and copper pipe, when police came on the scene, a court heard.

But only one of the trio was detained by officers responding to calls from neighbours in Easington Colliery, who heard noises in the early hours of July 7.

Gary Peter Hepworth and two accomplices, who fled, caused an estimated £1,000 worth of damage, but had piping and wiring stacked ready for removal.

Jonathan Harley, prosecuting, told Durham Crown Court Hepworth was carrying a screwdriver, a craft knife blade, and a dust mask taken from the house.

Hepworth, 38, of Bradley Street, Horden, whose record features 138 offences, admitted burglary.

Neil Bennett, mitigating, told the court, despite his record, Hepworth’s offending has slowed in recent years.

Jailing him for a year, Judge Simon Hickey told Hepworth: “Your offending has slowed, but this offence was committed within days of the magistrates putting some trust in you, giving you a community order.”