A DRUNKEN night-time burglar was confronted by an elderly female resident in sheltered accommodation, a court heard.

The 79-year-old woman was awoken in the early hours of April 1 by a noise in the sitting room of the bungalow in Seaham where she has lived alone for two decades supported by a care company.

Durham Crown Court was told she had left a living room window narrowly open when she went to bed the previous night, preparing for a visit from decorators the following day.

Intruder Thomas Chatfield, who gained entry via the window, was seen wandering about as the resident entered to make a check of the sitting room.

Rachel Masters, prosecuting, said the shocked occupier asked what he was doing, to which Chatfield replied: “I’m sorry darling.”

He tried to get out via the same window he entered but was ushered from the door by the resident who contacted her care company, which alerted police.

Miss Masters said Chatfield loitered around outside in the garden area, before walking off in the direction of the main road.

On arrival, police spotted Chatfield and gave chase, arresting him after a struggle in which he was abusive and threatening to an officer.

When interviewed later he claimed to be unable to recall if he was responsible for the break-in, due to his level of intoxication.

The 35-year-old defendant, of Tatham Street, Sunderland, admitted burglary, the fifth domestic break-in on his record of 77 convictions for 121 offences.

But, the court heard other than a minor assault in 2017, he has remained offence-free for more than five years.

Steven Reed, mitigating, said what the defendant said in his police interview was correct as he genuinely had no recollection of events that night due to the amount of alcohol he had drunk.

“My submission is that it was carried out more on impulse because he was so drunk, rather than it being a targeted offence.

“Then, when he was challenged inside the property, he left straight the way.

“But he accepts this act was deplorable and he confirms, through me, his remorse.”

Mr Reed said Chatfield’s “unenviable record” of offences span 20 years but have reduced since he acted to overcome a heroin addiction begun at the age of 14, which led him into a life of “sofa-surfing” and offending.

He lapsed briefly back to his former ways when he took to drink, rather than heroin, after the loss of a girlfriend, another recovering drug addict, following a relapse and an overdose.

Judge James Adkin said it should have been obvious to Chatfield that it was older person’s accommodation, due to the hand rail leading to the property.

He passed the mandatory minimum three-year prison term for three strikes and beyond burglars, with a 20-per cent deduction to allow for Chatfield’s early guilty plea, taking the final sentence to 876 days.