A BULLY who tried to suffocate his on-off partner with a pillow and threatened to kill her has been spared jail.

The court reprieve means Aaron Illingworth will be able to go to the funeral of his grandfather today.

Father-of-three Illingworth faced prison for the terrifying incident in her home last October – since when he has been behind bars on remand.

He appeared at Teesside Crown Court via a live video-link from HMP Durham, and received an 18-month suspended sentence.

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC, also ordered him to go on a course called Building Better Relationships.

Robert Mochrie, mitigating, described the 24-year-old chef as immature, and said he had put a difficult and crime-ridden start to life behind him since taking up further education in 2016.

“This is a man who clearly has made significant inroads into living offence-free,” said Mr Mochrie. “Happily, he has also found full-time employment which remains open to him.”

Judge Bourne-Arton told Illingworth: “Mr Mochrie has described you as an immature individual, and he is right. I’m going to describe you as a bullying individual, and I am right.

“Having threatened her in the way you did, you tried to use emotional blackmail to get her back.”

Prosecutor Jonathan Harley said Illingworth’s partner was six months pregnant with his child at the time of the offences.

She described a “slightly difficult” one-year on-off relationship, in which he was controlling.

Early on October 16, after ignoring his text message and a knock at the door and going to bed, she found him sleeping in a chair next to her garden shed.

After leaving the house with her young daughter to keep out of the way, she returned to find it had been tidied and a note had been left begging to take him back.

In the early hours of the next morning, she woke to find him at the door to her bedroom, said Mr Harley, and he then produced a knife.

The defendant twice threw his full body weight onto the woman on her bed, held a pillow over her face, and put his hand over her nose and mouth to stop her breathing, yelling repeatedly: “I’m going to kill you.”

When the assault ended, Illingworth left and put messages on Facebook, saying: “Everybody would be better off without me.”

Illingworth, of Leybourne Terrace, Stockton, pleaded guilty to making a threat to kill.