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Drunken burglar jailed after trying to smash his way into cancer victim's Middlesbrough home
AN elderly woman dying of cancer was left traumatised after a drunken burglar tried to smash his way into her home, a court heard.
Career criminal Christopher Swinnerton was jailed for two years and eight months for what a judge called "a self-evidently serious offence".
The 41-year-old's lawyer argued for a suspended prison sentence, but Judge John Walford said: "That would be an affront to his victim."
He told Swinnerton: "Imagine how she must have felt, wondering whether you were going to be able to get in and, indeed, confront her."
The woman was on the phone to police after hearing her patio doors being smashed and Swinnerton trying to break through her kitchen door.
When officers arrived on the scene in Middlesbrough, in the early hours of July 31, they found him still battling to get in.
He had socks over his hands, a crow bar in one, and a back-pack full of tools, prosecutor Sue Jacobs told Teesside Crown Court.
An officer said the householder was "fragile, visibly shaking and very upset" and told him she was due to go into a hospice the next day.
Mrs Jacobs told the court the pensioner continually asked not to be left alone because she was so traumatised by the 1.30am attempted break-in.
Judge Walford said: "It is not difficult to imagine how she felt having her patio doors being smashed and the inner doors being forced.
"I accept that you did not specifically target this house and you had no way of knowing that the occupant was terminally ill.
"But this is the problem when people attack houses at night . . . and you had gone there equipped to burgle, and that's what you did."
Graham Silvester, mitigating, said Swinnerton was "utterly ashamed" when he was told by police about the occupant's terminal cancer.
"The address wasn't targeted," Mr Silvester told Judge Walford. "Thankfully, nothing was stolen and the damage was minimal.
"He is utterly ashamed and remorseful that she was put through this ordeal, but it was not his intent that that should be the case.
"He doesn't understand why he did it. He was under some financial pressure. He has a terrible record, but mostly for nuisance offences."
Swinnerton, of Hoylake Road, Middlesbrough, who has a record stretching to 28 pages and 46 offences, admitted burglary.
Judge Walford told him: "I am quite unable to suspend the sentence. It would be an affront to your victim and an affront to her family, and an affront to all those who have been burgled at night in such circumstances."