A THIRD-STRIKE burglar was caught in the act, breaking into the home of a man who had only recently died, a court heard.

Stephen Scott and co-accused Thomas Copping got into the empty house in Bishop Auckland, on the evening of July 5.

Durham Crown Court was told when police arrived, in St Andrews Road, Scott was found in an upstairs bedroom.

Accomplice Thomas Copping escaped from a window, but was soon apprehended and arrested.

Jonathan Harley, prosecuting, said the householder living there had died a few weeks earlier.

Scott told police he and Copping went to board it up after hearing it had been burgled by others since becoming empty.

Although nothing was taken, the ex-resident’s bereaved family were “deeply shocked.”

Scott, 41, of Gibbon Street, Bishop Auckland, initially denied burglary, but changed his plea at a hearing last month.

Ben Pegman, for Scott, said Scott met the deceased’s mother as part of the restorative justice process and told her he was, “ashamed” at his behaviour.

Jailing him for two years and five months, Recorder Ian Atherton told Scott: “You broke into, with a co-accused, the house of someone you knew had recently died, causing terrible upset to his family, not surprisingly.”

Copping, 30, of Hawthorn Road, Middlestone Moor, Spennymoor, was jailed for six months on August 10, after also pleading guilty to burglary.