Woman stole presents on Christmas Eve in burglary

Melissa Duncan.

A woman who stole precious family jewellery and Christmas presents after breaking into a couple’s home was arrested after police found the stolen items at a nearby house which she had also burgled on the same morning.

Prolific criminal Melissa Duncan, 39, broke into the couple’s home in Ivy Cottages, Northallerton, on Christmas Eve morning when they were out walking their dog, York Crown Court heard.

Not only did she steal precious jewellery and a gift bought by the male victim for his wife, but she also took their prescription medication and, bizarrely, left dog biscuits on their sofa.

Prosecutor Austin Newman said that when the named couple returned from their walk, they were initially unaware that their home had been invaded, such was the “deftness and skill” of Duncan the seasoned burglar who had snuck in through an unlocked front door.

The female householder later suffered a hypoglycaemic attack, resulting from low blood-sugar levels, due to the shock of being burgled in broad daylight.

It occurred between 7.45am and 8.30am on December 24 last year when the couple, who lived in a row of terraces just behind the high street, near Malpas Road, were out walking their dog.

Duncan broke in through a “faulty and insecure front door” and there was “little or no disturbance”.

It was only when the female victim noticed that some dog biscuits had been removed from a drawer and “put on a settee in the lounge” and a Christmas jewellery gift from her husband had vanished, that she realised someone had been inside her home. Her husband had gifted her the jewellery just the day before.

“On further investigation, (the victims) discovered that several items of jewellery had been taken from the bedroom,” said Mr Newman.

In addition to the £500 worth of jewellery, Duncan had also stolen several pillboxes containing their prescription medication and other items which were found in a carrier bag outside the home of Duncan’s second burglary victim, who was also targeted on Christmas Eve morning very shortly after the raid on the couple’s house.

They reported the break-in to the very same police officer who was already investigating the second burglary at a named man’s home in Clarkson Court, off Malpas Road.

Mr Newman said it was about 8.30am when Duncan, like some hideous Christmas ghoul, broke into the male victim’s home while he was sleeping.

“He was disturbed by noises coming from the kitchen and he also noticed that, unusually, the porch light appeared to be on,” said Mr Newman.

“He got up quietly and went to investigate. As he was about to enter the kitchen, he was confronted by (Duncan) coming the other way. He challenged her and (Duncan) said to him that she was a care worker and had come to check on his welfare.”

Duncan then tried to push past him, heading for the open front door, as he tried to hold on to her, but she managed to evade him. As the victim tried to stop her escaping, he noticed a large carrier bag by the front door, inside which was a tub which he used to collect a “large amount” of loose change and coins.

He went to grab it, but Duncan tried to stop him, whereupon a “struggle” ensued as the thief screamed: “Give me my gear. You can’t touch me.”

He eventually managed to push her out of the door, before quickly closing it and locking it behind him as Duncan shouted dire abuse at him.

“She then left the area, leaving the bag behind,” said Mr Newman.

The victim reported the burglary but when officers arrived at the scene, they found they had not one, but two break-ins on their hands, as the carrier bag contained not just the coins collection, but also the jewellery, medication and other items stolen in the previous raid.

But Duncan wasn’t finished there, because around the same time she turned up at her former partner’s home in Springwell Lane, where she stole £40 from his wallet inside his bedroom. On this occasion, the named victim had let her in.

She stole the cash after the victim left her “unsupervised” in the house for a while. Due to “previous experiences with (Duncan)”, he thought better of this and went back inside the property where he noticed cash missing from his wallet.

When he challenged her about this, she pleaded her innocence but was duly escorted off the premises. The money was never recovered.

When Duncan was arrested later the same day, she tried to stop police detaining her by “pulling out a knife and threatening to harm herself”.

There was then a “stand-off” between her and officers before they finally “talked her round” and she ceded to arrest. However, when quizzed about the offences, she denied all allegations.

She ultimately admitted all three offences after the case reached court but with some prevarication. She appeared for sentence on Friday, June 14, after being remanded in custody.

In a statement read out by the prosecution, the female victim whose jewellery was stolen said: “This event has left me so shocked I had a hypoglycaemic episode.”

She said the thought that someone had invaded her home “makes me concerned for my safety in the future”.

Duncan, of Crossbeck Road, Northallerton, had racked up 76 previous offences during her long and varied criminal career which included many burglaries both in England and Scotland, drug crime, theft and other acquisitive matters.

Defence barrister Emily Handley said that Duncan, a mother-of-two, had mental-health issues exacerbated by drug abuse.

Recorder Taryn Turner said because of Duncan’s “serious criminal history” and “shocking record for offences of dishonesty”, the mandatory minimum sentence was “insufficient” in her case.

Duncan was jailed for three years and nine months but will only spend half of that behind bars, minus the time she had spent on remand, before being released on prison licence.