A THIRD-STRIKE burglar and a teenage accomplice broke into a family home at night as two mothers and their four children slept upstairs, a court was told.

Robert Walling and his 16-year-old sidekick then fled in a Ford Ka, parked outside the property in Paragon Street, Stanhope, after taking the keys from the kitchen, in the early hours of October 31.

But, Durham Crown Court was told they did not get far as the Ka went out of control, spun in the road and ended on its side after police began to pursue it, having seen it being driven at speed on the A689, near Frosterley, at 4am.

Victoria Lamballe, prosecuting, said Walling was seen climbing out of the passenger side and the 16-year-old was trying to clamber from the driver’s side.

The pair, both wearing gloves and balaclavas, were arrested. Neither replied in interview.

Neighbours of the burglary victim returned a discarded purse and its contents, also taken in the burglary, when the victims discovered the crime later that morning.

A victim statement read to the court referred to her shock at discovering intruders had been in her home at a time when four children, including a baby, were sleeping upstairs.

It stated: “The thought of someone being in my house terrifies me and I’m scared to think what would have happened if one of us had woken and gone downstairs.”

Walling, 25, of Dent Street, Shildon, admitted burglary, theft and aggravated vehicle taking.

The court heard the burglary was his third conviction for a domestic break-in, among 19 offences on his record, and so made him subject to a mandatory three-year prison sentence.

John Turner, representing Walling, told the court: “He falls to be sentenced as a third-strike burglar and a lengthy sentence will impact on him.

“He has skirted with danger on more than one occasion, but the longest time he has served until now is three weeks in a young offenders’ institution.”

Mr Turner said Walling did have drug and alcohol problems but has gone through rehabilitation and is now drug free, while he no longer has a drink problem.

“He has taken substantial steps to turn his life around and he plans to take opportunities to work while in custody.”

Passing a total prison sentence of three years and three months, Judge Jonathan Carroll told Walling: “People who commit house burglaries simply don’t appreciate it’s not just a crime against property.

“It’s someone’s home and it leaves the householder anxious, not feeling safe in their own house.”

Due to his age, the case of the 16-year-old accomplice was sent to be dealt with at the youth court.