A MAN high on valium walked into an elderly couple’s home in the early hours after discharging himself from hospital.

Michael Stephen Birch helped himself to money, a phone and used the microwave to heat himself two puddings at the house in Belmont, Durham, on May 9.

Durham Crown Court was told police took Birch to hospital as a precaution, due to his drug misuse, the previous night, but he discharged himself early the following morning.

Peter Sabiston, prosecuting, said the female resident woke at 5.30am and believed she could hear her husband downstairs.

She noticed the front door to the porch was open and heard footsteps, after realising her husband was still asleep in bed.

Mr Sabiston said on looking out, she saw a stranger on the drive way and went downstairs to see the microwave had been used to heat two puddings taken from the freezer.

She also noticed money was missing and her husband’s phone had been moved from the dining room.

She woke her husband, who drove after Birch in his car and caught up with him in the street, nearby.

He denied having been in the house or burgling the premises.

Police were informed and when Birch was arrested he was still in possession of the £180, the phone and the remnants of the food taken from the house.

He told police he was looking for somewhere warm and claimed he believed it was his girlfriend’s house.

Mr Sabiston said Birch’s footwear was removed and it led to a print match being recovered from the burgled house.

Informed of this, the defendant, of Hawthorn Square, Seaham, admitted burglary, but said as he had taken valium, he could recall little detail.

The court heard 34-year-old Birch has past offences of burglary and attempted burglary on his record, for which he was jailed in 2006, but since a robbery conviction in 2012, he has committed little crime.

Jane Waugh, in mitigation, described the circumstances of the burglary as, “bizarre”, as, still under the influence of drugs, he wandered into the house, not really aware of what he was doing.

But Judge James Adkin told Miss Waugh: “The trouble is, it’s really frightening to have a complete stranger entering your home, particularly a well-built male completely ‘off it’ with drugs.”

Miss Waugh agreed but said he was microwaving puddings and, “happily”, there was no confrontation.

She said Birch had been doing well rehabilitating himself, until lockdown, when he relapsed on drugs, while lonely.

Birch, appearing via video link from nearby Durham Prison, read a letter apologising to the couple whose home he burgled, urging the judge to give him a chance to continue his rehabilitation in the community on a suspended sentence.

But, passing a 12-month prison sentence, Judge Adkin said burgling an occupied property under the influence of drugs during night-time hours had to met with an immediate term of custody.