Woman experienced 'worst nightmare' after waking up to find 'crime spree' burglar in her bedroom

Stephen Leech was jailed for over three years
-Credit: (Image: Northumbria Police)

A woman's "worst nightmare" became a reality when she woke up to find a serial burglar in her bedroom.

Stephen Leech undertook a "crime spree" last year when he carried out a number of burglaries across Tyneside. The 36-year-old stole a camper van during the spree and broke into the bedroom of a woman, who woke up to find him standing there in the middle of the night.

Leech, of no fixed address, also broke into a communal area of a student building, a bar and an independent business during his offending. Newcastle Crown Court heard that the three-strike burglar had 37 previous convictions for 62 offences, many of which were for burglaries.

On Friday, he appeared at the court via link from HMP Durham to be sentenced for dwelling burglary, theft of a motor vehicle, possession of class C drugs, and non-dwelling burglary. He had pleaded guilty to the offences.

The court heard that in September last year, the crime spree began when Leech entered a Wallsend home through an unlocked door in the early hours of the morning, but left empty handed. Later that morning, he broke into the shed of another property, but again left empty handed.

But later that same day, Leech went on to steal a campervan. Ian Cook, prosecuting, said: "The victim had parked his campervan in Percy Street, Wallsend. When he got up to go to work he saw that the van had been stolen." CCTV captured Leech breaking into the campervan before driving off. The van has never been recovered.

On another day in the same month, Leech, who was in possession of class C drug Xanax, then went on to break into a student halls of residence and was seen by a resident getting into the communal area by kicking through an external door. He stole food before being arrested nearby.

Leech also committed a burglary on September 29 which terrified one victim, who woke up to find him in her bedroom. Mr Cook told the court the woman was living in a flat above a pub at the time. He said: "She had been out and returned home. She woke up at 2.30am to see the defendant in her bedroom with a bag over his shoulder.

"He quickly left the property. She saw that the door was damaged and that he must have forced entry. Her iPhone was stolen from the bedside table."

In a victim statement, the woman said the incident was her "worst nightmare" and that she feels "violated". She added the burglary left her suffering from PTSD and is now on anxiety medication.

Later that day, Leech broke into a Newcastle Head of Steam pub after pulling open the fire exit doors. He tried to get into the till but resorted to taking four bottles of spirits - which he dropped and smashed. Around £2,000 damage was caused to the door and almost £100 damage to the alcohol.

Leech then broke into a buffet business and stole a chef jacket, alcohol and other goods. When Leech was finally arrested, he gave a no comment interview.

Penny Hall, defending, said Leech fell back into drug use after becoming homeless and so committed the spree. She said: "The drugs explain why he committed the offences, but that doesn't justify it. Having been in custody since October last year, he presents as completely different.

"He has secured a job in the kitchens which is a trusted position." Ms Hall added that Leech is drug free in prison and is "motivated to not keep coming back to custody".

Recorder David Gordon said Leech went on a "spree of offending" and jailed him for three years and six months.