A BURGLAR who threatened to kill an elderly man’s dog before taking his car is beginning a nine-year custodial sentence.

Joshua Layton, then 19, was one of two teenagers who knocked at the back door of a house in Albert Street, Grange Villa, near Chester-le-Street, late on November 4, last year.

Durham Crown Court heard that the householder believed it must be a neighbour calling, but on opening the door, two hooded young men, with zipped up coats covering their faces, barged in.

They began punching his face and body, demanding money and his car keys.

Ian West, prosecuting, said the 68-year-old man told them he had no money and tried to hide his car keys between settee cushions.

But Layton grabbed his dog, Jack, a Staffordshire bull terrier, and threatened to slash the pet with a knife if he was not handed the keys.

Despite his younger accomplice urging him not to, Layton repeated the threat, and was handed the car keys by the terrified owner.

They took his mobile phone and warned him not to contact the police, before gratuitously turning over a coffee table, damaging the tv set, and also removing his tobacco tin.

The intruders then went to his car, a Mini, parked at the end of the street, and drove off in it.

Mr West said the victim went to a neighbour’s home and was able to report the incident to police.

With the use of the police helicopter, the car was stopped with the younger perpetrator at the wheel, at 1.15am on November 5.

Layton, aware of the police activity, abandoned the car in nearby High Handenhold, and was heading back to Grange Villa on foot.

He contacted police by phone and told them he would hand himself in, agreeing to stand outside a shop in Grange Villa, at 2am, where he was arrested.

Mr West read the victim’s impact statement in which he described the ordeal as the most terrifying incident of his life, which has led him to be ‘hyper-vigilant’ since.

Layton, now 20, of Southdowns, Chester-le-Street, admitted aggravated burglary, driving without a licence or insurance and failing to provide a blood specimen for analysis.

Nicholas Lane, mitigating, told the court: “The defendant knows it was a mean offence and he, very much, realises the harm, hurt and obvious upset he caused the victim in this case.”

Mr Lane said Layton had a difficult childhood and ended in care at 14, while his latter teenage years were blighted by drug and drink misuse.

Recorder Tom Moran described Layton’s actions that night as, “outrageous”, adding that the victim must have been left suffering significant psychological harm.

Imposing the nine-year sentence in a young offenders’ institution, Recorder Moran also banned Layton from driving for 84 months.

Speaking after the hearing, Detective Constable Chris Bentham, of Stanley CID, said: “I hope this sentencing will provide a deterrent to others intent on committing criminal behaviour in the area.

“We believe this was a planned attack on a vulnerable male and we will stop at nothing to catch violent criminals who show no regard for the impact they have on their victims.”

* The court was told Layton's 16-year-old accomplice was dealt with at youth court.

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