A burglar who went on a bender on the anniversary of his brother’s death has been locked up after he was caught red-handed.

John MacNeil downed 14 cans of booze before turning to whiskey and drugs as his life unravelled late last year.

The 44-year-old had visited his brother’s grave on December 3 and in the early hours of the following day he smashed his way into house and stuffed electrical items and jewellery in two carrier bags.

Tabitha Buck, prosecuting, said a neighbour heard MacNeil stumbling through the Middlesbrough property and alerted the householder, who was at work, and the police.

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She told the court how MacNeil was arrested as he left the property on Durham Road and all the goods were recovered apart from a white gold engagement ring worth £2,000.

Miss Buck added that the defendant told police he had stopped taking his schizophrenia medication and was self-medicating with zopiclone.

MacNeil, of Boxer Court, Middlesbrough, pleaded guilty to one charge of burglary.

Emma Williams, mitigating, said the impact of his brother’s death has led to her client re-offending and had little recollection of the burglary.

“He fully admitted this offence in interview and was arrested at the scene,” she said. “Unfortunately, his brother was killed in late 2021 and the is due to be a trial in July this year.

“He is finding it very difficult to cope with that.

“He is incredibly disappointed in himself; this is the wake up call he obviously needed. He has engaged with the mental health and drug treatment teams within the prison while he has been on remand.”

The Northern Echo: Ian MacNeil was found fatally injured in MiddlesbroughIan MacNeil was found fatally injured in Middlesbrough

Judge Chris Smith locked the father-of-three up for 16 months.

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He added: “In the small hours of the morning you broke into a home, the victim was at work at the time but a neighbour heard the noises and called her and the police.

“The police found you coming out of the house carrying two carrier bags full of property you intended to steal from the house.

“All of it was recovered apart from a white gold engagement ring worth about £2,000 but also of real sentimental value to the victim.”

  • Dean Williams is accused of murdering Ian MacNeil by inflicting significant head injuries after he was found unconscious in the street on November 28, 2021.

The 46-year-old was taken to hospital and received treatment but died on December 3.

Williams, of Southfield Road, Middlesbrough, denies murder.