A serial burglar who was disturbed by his victim mid-raid hid in her wardrobe for 13 HOURS, before fleeing her house in the middle of the night.
When Rosalinde Potter unknowingly disturbed Aaron Bradford as he robbed her home, the 18-year-old thief stowed himself away in her wardrobe, where he went unnoticed even as police searched the house three times.
Bradford grabbed a poker from Mrs Potter's fireplace and hid in her spare room in the middle of the afternoon, before sneaking out the property at 4am.
Mrs Potter, 53, hadn't spotted the raider in her home and phoned police, who arrived to investigate at 6pm.
Two officers spent two hours at her home, taking fingerprints, DNA and examining every room for possible evidence.
Rosalinde and the officers went into her spare room THREE times - unaware Bradford was crouched inside
Police left at 8pm and mum-of-one Rosalinde spent the evening at home with her partner and 16-year-old son, having dinner and watching TV.
Bradford continued sitting still and quiet in the cupboard until 4am - when he crept out while the family slept and grabbed a camera, a Toshiba laptop and cash.
But despite sticking it out for 13 hours, Bradford was caught minutes after leaving the house when police spotted him half a mile away.
Amazingly, the thief, who later admitted a string of offences, had burgled Mrs Potter's property three times before.
He was yesterday jailed for five years for the burglary at Mrs Potter's five-bedroomed house in Yelverton, Devon, in September.
Stunned Mrs Potter said Bradford must have sat in her wardrobe for 13 hours "like a gnome holding a fishing rod".
She said: "We were all in the room while he was there - me, a police officer, another officer taking fingerprints, my partner. He was within arms reach of all of us.
"There’s a shelf inside and I assume he was sitting there like a gnome holding a fishing rod.
"He's slim but 6ft tall so I think that’s the only way he could have done it.
"We went into the spare room with the police three times while he was sat inside there. I went back into the room myself later too.
"It's very disturbing to think that someone might actually want to hit me with a poker.
"It took me three weeks before I could even sleep at night just thinking someone could be in the house."
Bradford, of Plymouth, Devon, broke into the five-bedroomed home by smashing a patio door on September 25, Plymouth Crown Court heard.
Mrs Potter returned at 2.40pm, after which Bradford grabbed an 18inch poker and jumped into the wardrobe - where Rosalinde's partner keeps his shirts.
He climbed out of the cupboard at 4am and was arrested after he was spotted carrying his swag just half a mile from the house.
Bradford admitted burgling the same house four times and was sentenced to five years in a young offenders' institution less 57 days spent on remand.
David Gittins, prosecuting, said: "The householder returned home to find the patio doors forced and items moved within the house.
"He hid in the wardrobe for 13 hours till 4am, then stole a camera, a laptop and a small amount of cash."