Luton teens hide in bathroom as burglar strikes
Two terrified teenage girls locked themselves in a bathroom before escaping out of a window when a neighbour broke in to their home.
Steven Croft burgled the house in Gilderdale, Luton, on 5 March, thinking no-one was home.
The girls, 13 and 15, were alone while their mother was shopping. They went to the bathroom and called police before escaping into the garden.
Croft, 39, admitted burglary and was given a two-year suspended sentence.
Croft was detained after a police dog tracked him to his bedroom, where he was pretending to be asleep.
He was lying on a duvet which was hiding his neighbour's television, Luton Crown Court heard.
Prosecutor John Carmichael said Croft had knocked on the door of the house and, when there was no answer, broke in through a window.
He said: "They [the girls] locked themselves in the bathroom.
"The younger sister called her mother and the police. Croft came upstairs [and] the sisters saw the bathroom door handle move.
"Both were utterly terrified."
In a statement, their mother said it had affected both daughters and she "would do anything to take the fear away from my children and make them feel safe again".
Mitigating for Croft, who had a string of 29 previous convictions, Amy Childs said her client had written to the judge describing his actions that day as "stupid, selfish and devastating".
He had not realised the girls were home and had shown "great remorse".
He had also saved up £500 to compensate the family, she added.
Sentencing him to two years in jail, suspended for two years, Recorder Bridge told Croft: "This is very much your last chance. You must take it."
The judge also made a restraining order banning Croft from contacting the mother or her daughters indefinitely.