A WOMAN woke to find a dark figure rummaging through her jewellery box on a chest of drawers at the end of her bed, a court was told.

She screamed, alerting her sleeping partner, who gave chase as the stranger ran from the bedroom of their Shildon home, at 3.25am on April 18.

Durham Crown Court heard her intrepid partner managed to catch up with the intruder, who fled the bungalow via the back door.

He dragged him back as he tried to climb a rear fence and held onto him while his partner phoned the police.

Despite their shock at their home being burgled, the couple showed mercy when the detained burglar claimed he was struggling to breathe.

Shaun Dryden, prosecuting, said the female householder brought him a mug of water to drink.

But it gave him chance to produce a knife from his pocket with which he threatened the couple, saying: “Leave me alone. Let me go, or I’ll stab you. I’ll put this in your neck.”

Although the male householder tried to grab the burglar’s arm, and struck a blow to his face, the intruder stumbled backwards, but then made further threats, before fleeing via the front of the property.

Mr Dryden said a fingerprint lift from a letter alongside the jewellery box matched with defendant Peter Matthews, who was also picked out on a video identity parade.

But the 37-year-old, of Foundry Street, Shildon, denied aggravated burglary at a plea hearing.

Even though a forensic match on the mug from which Matthews took a sip also linked him to the crime, he maintained his denial until the day of trial, yesterday, when he changed his plea to guilty.

Mr Dryden said the victim spoke of her anger at the sanctity of their home being violated, making her uneasy in the property and ultra-security conscious, even buying a German Shepherd as a guard dog.

The court was told Matthews has a record of 64 convictions for 144 offences, including a number of domestic and commercial burglaries.

John Turner, mitigating, said Matthews has, twice been stabbed himself in recent years, one of which has caused him fears for the long-term health of a leg.

Jailing Matthews for ten years and ten months, Judge Jonathan Carroll praised the stoicism of the couple in their response to the situation.

“It must have been truly terrifying for them. When someone such as you burgles someone’s home, it’s not just an offence against their property, it’s against those people themselves, who are entitled to feel safe and secure in their property.”