A MOTHER returned home to find her former boyfriend had smashed up property, including three fish tanks, leaving the tropical fish to die, a court was told yesterday.

The 250 fish in the three tanks belonged to the Samantha Bates and her two children. But in May, after she separated from their father, he went to their house and smashed televisions, a microwave, computer, ornaments and the fish tanks.

David Butler, 37, of Erskine Road, Hartlepool, appeared before Teesside Crown Court and admitted two offences of destroying property.

Judge Peter Fox QC jailed Butler for two months and told him: "It is not the slightest excuse that you had split up or that you had invested ten years of your life in the relationship which had borne two children.

"In a way, it makes it worse because this was the home of your children."

Chris Baker, prosecuting, said Butler's girlfriend had received several calls from him during the evening telling her to get home, culminating in a call in which he said if she did no go home he would smash the place up.

When she returned, she found property in the kitchen had been smashed with a shovel, the fish tanks had been broken and water had spilled all over the floor.

A leather sofa had been slashed open and a television, hi-fi, video and ornaments were also smashed, said Mr Baker.

There was £3,275 worth of damage.

Aisha Wadoodi, for Butler, said that he felt he had helped his former girlfriend and provided her with a home, which he had furnished for them. She had told him she wanted to separate and he became aware she was seeing someone else.

The offences were out of character and were committed when he was depressed, said Miss Wadoodi.