TWO men involved in a “particularly mean” burglary at the empty home of a man in hospital, will both spend Christmas behind bars.

A witness saw a man matching Robert Lance’s description smashing a rear window and entering the house, in Carlton Street, Ferryhill, at 12.30pm on October 8.

Durham Crown Court was told he left and returned with two other males, one of them Gavin Short, 20 minutes later.

They took two television sets plus a set of car keys.

Jonathan Harley, prosecuting, said the property was empty at the time as the householder was spending nine days in hospital.

A short time after police visited the next day, Lance returned and used the stolen car keys to drive off in the occupiers’ Proton Savvy vehicle, parked outside.

Lance was recognised on cctv at a nearby filling station shortly afterwards.

Inquiries led to the arrest of Lance and Short, while police later recovered the car.

In a statement, the victim said he knew Short as, for the six months prior to the burglary, he regularly called at his home offering to sell him various items and did some cleaning for him.

The car, worth about £1,200, was not insured at the time as the owner planned to sell it, intending to use the money to move out of Ferryhill.

Both Lance, 32, of Flora Street, Spennymoor, and Short, 34, of Church Street, Ferryhill, admitted burglary.

Lance also admitted theft, driving while disqualified and without insurance.

Mr Harley added: “This doesn’t appear to have been a random burglary. It was targeted and of the three people involved two have been identified.”

The court heard Lance has 82 offences on his record, while Short has 20, but both have one previous offence for house burglary.

Simon Walker, for Lance, said: “It was a day-time offence and was about as audacious as it was foolish, as it’s hard to see how they were going to get away with it.

“He made no attempt to conceal his identity when he drove to the nearest petrol station.”

Ismael Uddin, for Short, said: “I don’t wish to split hairs, but, although he knew the complainant, he doesn’t seem to have been the main instigator

“He knew the premises were unoccupied and the resident was not there.

“He’s fairly frank that he’s a recovering drug addict, stealing those tvs to feed his drug habit.”

Recorder Peter Makepeace QC said it was a “particularly mean offence” given that it was known the victim was in hospital.

He imposed prison sentence of 13 months on Short and 15 months on Lance, who was also banned from driving for 16 months.