A drug-addicted woman crept into a pensioner’s house via the open back door and stole his cleaner’s phone, cash and bank cards, a court was told.

Becky Simpson, 43, then went on a mini spending spree using the victim’s cards at two nearby stores.

Durham Crown Court heard that Simpson was in the terraced property, in the High Street, Carrville, for probably no more than ten seconds, but it was enough time to take the unattended items in the kitchen, as the resident was sleeping nearby, while the cleaner was working elsewhere in the house.

Martin Towers, prosecuting, said the cleaner discovered her belongings were missing soon afterwards and inquiries were made with a neighbour who had cctv installed at the back of their home.

Examination of footage showed the defendant entering and leaving with the items.

She was recognised by the neighbour and it enabled police to arrest her four days later, when her residence at the time was searched and receipts from the fraudulent transactions, for items totalling £143, were found.

Simpson, originally from Northallerton, North Yorkshire, was charged with burglary and three counts of fraud but failed to attend a plea hearing at the court on August 3.

She was only brought before the court following the execution of a bench warrant on September 21, when she pleaded guilty to all four counts.

Simpson has since been held on remand in Low Newton Women’s Prison, on the outskirts of Durham.

The sentencing hearing was told she has three previous offences on her record, including one of house burglary, dating from 2008.

Mr Towers said the resident who suffered the latest burglary had lived at that address for 55 years following his marriage, and his wife died only six months before the offence.

The offence was said to have “destroyed him”, but he thanked his neighbours for their, “amazing support”.

He said he had struggled to come to terms with the fact someone had sneaked into his home to steal items, as he was from an era where you were able to safely leave your door open.

The cleaner, a single mother, said the money she made from her part-time work helped her to meet the cost of her studies.

She has had to borrow money from her family and has had difficulties in obtaining a new phone.

Chris Morrison, representing Simpson, said the defendant’s past burglary offence was as an accomplice at an unoccupied home where copper piping was removed, in 2008.

“This was an entirely different matter, very much an opportunistic offence.

“She has little recall of it but pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.”

Mr Morrison said there was, ”a very sad background story” behind the latest offence.

“When I asked her about it she said she was ashamed of herself and is deeply sorry, fully acknowledging the harm she caused.

“It could be said that this was out of character. She remembers very little of it.

“It happened in a period when she was, effectively, homeless, in the midst of a drug addiction.”

Mr Morrison said the defendant lost her partner, who died, aged only 50, in February, and that only made her drug abuse worse, without any means of support.

He said the only “life anchor” she has is the support of her children and her son has “reached out” to offer her accommodation at his address in Northallerton, from where she originally hails.

Mr Morrison said the six weeks she has spent on remand, her first taste of custody, have proved a “salient advantage” to her, as she is now drug free.

“She does not like it (custody) but it has been sufficient of a jolt to her personal attitude that if she is given a chance, she will take it, as she can engage with drug rehabilitation services that are available in Northallerton.”

Judge Jo Kidd told Simpson the offence was “slyly” committed, causing a substantial impact on both victims, the elderly resident and his cleaner.

But the judge accepted the commission of the offence was against the backdrop of a drug addiction.

Judge Kidd told Simpson that only for the fact that she has spent the last six weeks in custody, she could pass a sentence aimed at more long-term tackling of the defendant’s drug misuse.

“I have just been persuaded to step back from an immediate term of imprisonment.”

Read more crime stories from The Northern Echo, by clicking here

Get more from The Northern Echo for just £3 for 3 months for a Premium Plus annual subscription or £47 for an annual subscription (saving 40%). Click here.

She passed an 18-month sentence, suspended for two years, to include a 12-month drug rehabilitation requirement, with monthly court reviews, while Simpson must also undergo 25 days of rehabilitation activity work with the Probation Service.

The judge warned Simpson that any failure to observe the rehabilitation elements of the sentence or any subsequent further offending would land her back behind bars, with a starting point of 18 months.

Simpson’s first monthly drug review will be back at the court on November 29.