TWO burglars who ransacked an elderly couple's home and stole irreplaceable belongings left them devastated, a court heard.

The couple, in their 80's, were out of their Darlington house for a little over two hours when Luke Pemberton and Ashley Wardell struck.

They upturned furniture, tipped out drawers and left items strewn across the floors during the raid in October, said prosecutor Harry Hadfield.

He told Teesside Crown Court that jewellery "of great sentimental value" handed down through generations was taken.

Pemberton, 22, pawned some of the items and others were found hidden in a baby's pram in 20-year-old Wardell's home.

The victims said in an impact statement that although they got back some of their belongings, they were either damaged or felt "soiled"

Mr Hadfield told the court: "The statement puts a stark account of the devastation upon them, particularly the sentimental value of the items.

"They talk of the effect the ransacking has had upon them, saying that the property was trashed. Given their age, they say they could do without the upheaval."

Among the haul was two diamond pendants, a ring and two solid steel paperweights in the form of train wheels.

An irreplaceable photograph of the woman's grandparents was also destroyed.

Jailing them for 15 months, Judge Tony Briggs told the pair: "Where people break into a house, ransack it and take property - even if they are youthful - they must expect custody.

"You were clearly acting together and it took place at night, although the occupants were away, and alcohol seems to be the influencing feature."

The court heard how the pair targeted the bungalow, thinking there were valuables inside, but were unaware the occupants were in their 80s.

Ian West, for Pemberton, said little planning went into the raid because they used a stone to break a window to get in.

Peter Sabiston, for Wardell, said he had endured "an unhappy and damaged" childhood but has support from his mother and partner.

Both barristers said the pair - who both have previous burglary convictions - better understand the impact their actions have on their victims.

Mr Sabiston said a letter to the judge from Wardell, of Salisbury Terrace, Darlington, seemed to show "a degree of growing maturity".

He added: "Perhaps he is just beginning to realise the impact that house burglary has upon individual members of the public."

Mr West added: "Having seen the victim personal statement, he now has an insight into the damage he has done beyond merely stealing their property."

Pemberton, of Headlam Road, Darlington, admitted burglary and receiving stolen goods from another raid, while Wardell pleaded guilty to burglary.

The judge told them: "Somewhat surprisingly, both of you seem to be at last realising the effect of your actions on others.

"If that's right, there is some hope for the future. If it is wrong, you will be back time and time again."