A shoplifter fleeing a store with stolen meat joints knocked two elderly shoppers to the ground, fracturing the hip of one, before assaulting two police arresting him two days later.

Stephen Jack Thomas Wray received prison sentences totalling 44 months at Durham Crown Court for crimes which began with him attempting to steal two £12 legs of lamb from Iceland, in Peterlee, on Thursday April 4 this year.

The court was told he pushed one joint down his trousers and was holding the other as he bolted from the store, in Castle Dene Shopping Centre, pushing past two women entering the premises.

Charlie Thompson, prosecuting, said one of the women, aged 71, suffered a fractured hip in her fall and received hospital treatment for nine days before spending 12 days in a care home recuperating from her injuries, which have restricted her movement since.

She is also said to have lost confidence going out in the aftermath of the incident.

The second injured woman, also in her 70s, was briefly rendered unconscious, and she, too, lost confidence going out, suffering flashbacks of the incident.

Mr Thompson said Wray dropped one of the legs of lamb as he fled, and it was recovered.

But he was not apprehended until the morning of Saturday April 6, when he was located at an address in Peterlee, where police were summoned as he was unconscious on the living room floor.

Two female officers who helped to revive him and put him in the recovery position for his own safety were assaulted by Wray, who became immediately aggressive on coming around.

When told he was wanted for the theft and injuries to the shoppers at Iceland two days earlier, he became more aggravated, shouting abusively as one of the officers tried to restrain him.

He took hold of one of the officer’s fingers, bending them backwards, and then got to his feet and head butted the other officer to the side of the jaw.

When the two officers tried to apply a leg restraint, Wray kicked out at them.

The arrest was eventually completed and Wray was interviewed the following day, refusing to answer questions.

The Northern Echo: Stephen Wray, back behind bars after only five days of liberty, in April

Wray, 24, of Wilkinson Road, Peterlee, admitted two counts of assault causing actual bodily harm, two of assault by beating of an emergency worker and one of shop theft on his first appearance before magistrates.

He appeared at the crown court sentencing hearing via video link from HMP Durham, where he has been on remand in recent weeks.

The court was told he is a “prolific shoplifter”, with 31 convictions for 105 offences, and received a 28-week prison sentence late last year, only being released on licence in early April this year, two days before the Iceland offences.

Calum McNicholas, in mitigation, said the only instructions he has received on behalf of the defendant were that he was, “sorry for the victims", as he did not mean it to happen as it did.

“When I spoke to him he did not want to go into his background, but he says he’s sorry for his actions and takes his responsibility for them.

“He pleaded guilty early in proceedings, at the magistrates’ court.”

Recorder Richard Wright KC told Wray: “I accept you didn’t target the lady whose hip was broken when you pushed past her.

“But, the reality is, when you take the sort of chances you do, you run the risk of people suffering serious injury.

“You did not stop to see how either of these women were.

“You fled with one leg of lamb.

“Then, when the officers tried to help you, when you came around, you became immediately aggressive, shouting and swearing, taking the fingers of one officer and head butting the other, also kicking one when she tried to restrain your legs.

“Despite your young age, you have accumulated quite a record.

“You’re a prolific shoplifter, but also with previous convictions for violence.

See more court stories from The Northern Echo by clicking here

Peterlee shoplifter jailed for crimes in County Durham

People in court for shoplifting Darlington & County Durham

Hetton thief stole Lurpak at Tesco store from where he was barred

Unlock your community with news from The Northern Echo! Get unlimited access to local news, enjoy our ad-free app, and read the digital edition of the printed paper. Subscribe today and stay informed effortlessly. #AdFree #LocalNews" subscription. For details, click here

“You have refused to engage with the Probation Service and you have decided to adopt a criminal lifestyle, thinking only of your needs.

“I hear your apology, but you will continue to offend.”

He imposed consecutive prison sentences for the offences of April 4 and 6, totalling three years and eight months.