DETECTIVES are hunting four masked men who stole cash and jewellery after smashing their way into a house and robbing a woman as she prayed in her bedroom.

The armed gang broke the glass on a patio door and entered the property in Westhouse Avenue, Durham at around 7pm on Friday.

The burglars, who were wearing black, then went upstairs to a bedroom and confronted the woman who was alone in the property at the time.

They threatened the terrified victim and demanded the jewellery she was wearing.

They then ordered her to look away as they ransacked the room, taking more jewellery and a substantial amount of cash.

As they then made their way downstairs the men came face-to-face with the woman’s adult son as he returned home through the front door.

One of the suspects threatened the man with a knife, before all four escaped on foot in an unknown direction.

Both victims were physically unharmed, but have been left distressed by the incident.

Neighbours have spoken of their shock following the raid in the upmarket suburb.

One man said: "I am shocked that something like this could happen so close to my home.

"Four masked have got inside the house and the fact that someone was in there has not deterred them. That is the shocking bit.

"When you think of burglaries you think of them sneaking in. It is one thing being burgled but it is worse when they kick the door in when you are inside. They have not been violent but there has been the threat of violence by the sound of it."

The man said the family 'keep themselves to themselves'.

Another man said: “It is frightening, it really is, that this can happen in this street. It has really taken us by surprise and we are very concerned.” 
A couple, who have young children and live nearby, now plan improve security measures.
One woman said: “It is scary.”

Police are making house-to-house inquiries in the area and crime scene investigation teams have carried out a forensic examination at the house.

Detective Constable Laura Douglas, who is leading the investigation, is appealing for anyone with information about the incident to come forward.

She said: “This is clearly been a terrifying ordeal for the victim, who was alone at home praying when four masked men broke into her home and threatened her.

“We feel sure that this was a targeted attack and there is no reason for the wider public to be alarmed.

“If anyone saw anything suspicious in the area on Friday evening, particularly if they saw four men either on foot or getting into a vehicle, we would urge them to come forward as quickly as possible.”

Anyone with information is asked to ring Durham City CID on 101.