A HALLOWEEN burglar dressed in a vampire mask who smashed his way into a family’s home while they were inside to steal their valuable puppy, has been jailed for ten years.

Aiden Blareau was part of an armed gang of three who used a concrete boulder to smash through patio windows in a Darlington home, causing the family to flee as one of the trio wielded a machete.

He and his two accomplices – who have not been caught – then stole the family’s ten week old French Bulldog puppy, Violet, from the Hundens Lane home.

The Northern Echo: Violet the bulldog puppyViolet the bulldog puppy

Blareau, 25, of Elvet Place, Darlington, pleaded not guilty to aggravated burglary but a jury at Teesside Crown Court did not believe his story that he was at his girlfriend’s sister’s home nearby, smoking cannabis after playing with her children at the time of the burglary.

Judge Sean Morris imposed a ten-year prison sentence following the verdict yesterday.

The masked gang broke in while the family’s two children, aged five and seven, were getting ready for bed.

Blareau’s DNA – a one in a billion match – was found on a vampire mask inadvertently dropped by the burglars at the scene during the five-minute raid.

Victim Joanne Leslie told how she and her partner were in her living room when they heard a huge crash at the back of the Darlington house, closely followed by another.

A gang of three people wearing masks had smashed their way through the back patio doors with a concrete boulder – and the family fled out of the front, where they were quickly locked out of their own home by the thieves.

Miss Leslie said she had seen a short man, no more than 5ft3ins, at her door holding a ‘large knife’ in front of his face, before she was locked out.

She also said she heard him say: “Where are the other f****** dogs?”

The thieves searched the house, looking for more valuable puppies from a litter Miss Leslie’s adult dog had recently had, but all but one of the pups had been sold and rehomed just days earlier.

“I could hear my dogs crying and I have never, ever heard them cry,” she told the jury.

The gang emptied out one of Miss Leslie’s larger handbags and used it to transport the puppy as they fled the scene.

Violet, who was microchipped, was later traced by Miss Leslie in Scotland after she had been sold on by the thieves.