FOR more than a year Jane Smith saved up every penny she could to pay for smart new replacement windows for her east Durham home.

But the mother-of-three's dream of completing the transformation of her semi-detached in Peterlee has turned into a nightmare.

For after handing over almost £2000 in cash to the Mister Windows firm, the Darlington based company has ceased trading.

Now Trading Standards are looking into the collapse, which has left scores of customers without their windows.

The blow has left Jane and her partner Peter with the same old windows and a hefty £1,750 worse off. Jane realises that she was unwise to hand over so much cash before any of the work was done: "The salesman reduced his asking price if we could give him cash so I decided to hand over half the money."

Jane, who bought the house in Mansell Crescent four years ago, has worked night and day to turn it into a little palace.

"All that was needed was new windows and I was so excited at the thought of getting all the work completed," said Jane, who in the middle of all the upset had to cope with the untimely death of her mother.

"It has all been too much and yesterday when I heard that the company was still handing out leaflets in Peterlee I just exploded."

Jane went straight to the town centre and challenged the sales girls to give her information. She learned that a second company - the Middlesbrough based Masterfit - was now trying to resolve some of the problems left by the collapse of Mr Windows which had its main show room in Whessoe Road, Darlington.

And yesterday Masterfit's senior branch Manager, John Davison revealed that his company had lost more than £30,000 in the collapse. He added: "We manufactured the windows for Mr Windows and obviously they will be of no use to anyone else."

He therefore gave an assurance to the Smiths that providing they were prepared to pay the balance of their contract bill his company would install the windows.

The work, he promised, would begin within the next ten to 14 days he also confirmed that his company was a well established business which had been trading for 17 years.

At Darlington Borough Council trading Standards Officers confirmed that the matter had been brought to their attention and that they were looking into it.

A spokesman added: "When ordering any goods we would advise people to pay only a reasonable deposit and to only pay the full amount when satisfied with the final work.

"It is also advisable to look for businesses which are members of trade organisations such as the Glass and Glaziers Federation who may give additional protection."