KNIFE-wielding burglars who targeted a vulnerable couple in their own home have been jailed for 11 years.

Johntom Ross, 23, and Lee Robertson, 33, wore masks and hoodies as they stormed into the house in Sacriston, County Durham, after concocting a story to get the occupants to open the front door.

Once inside the house, the pair threatened the couple, one of whom was in bed due to ill-health, shouting “I will f****** slice you up.”

One burglar got into a physical scuffle with the ill man and pressed the knife on his chest, telling him “don’t be a f****** hero.”

The house was ransacked, with drawers pulled out and wardrobe doors pulled off, before the pair left with about £400 cash, CDs and jewellery belonging to the victim’s late mother.

Police soon caught up with the men and realised that Robertson’s parents were neighbours of the victims.

Robertson had previously visited the property on a number of occasions to buy cigarettes and had seen a tin of cash stashed in the house.

Both Ross, of Jubilee Road and Robertson, of Maughan Street, both Shildon, were found guilty of one charge of aggravated burglary by a jury after a trial at Durham Crown Court.

Penny Hall said in mitigation for Robertson that since he had been remanded in custody for the offence in November last year he had been a model prisoner, achieving qualifications and working on projects.

James Bourne-Arton, for Ross, said the burglary was not a sophisticated one and he was “only 22” at the time.

Prosecutor Ian West said the victims had been left “prisoners in their own home.”

A victim statement from the male victim said: “I keep picturing them stood there with the knives, I can’t get it out of my head. It has affected me in a bad way. I feel nervous whenever somebody knocks at the door and we don’t like to go out in case something happens to the house.”

Judge Jonathan Carroll, who sentenced both men to 11 years in prison, said: “The couple was deliberately targeted because Lee Robertson knew that [the victim] sold cigarettes.

"It’s easy to understand how seriously this offence has impacted them. They are both looking to move home because they live in fear of what happened to them.”

Judge Carroll also criticised Ross for his demeanour throughout the trial, adding: “Your behaviour, belching whilst giving evidence, shows an absolute lack of any empathy or remorse into your offending.”