A BRAVE woman chased off two masked hammer burglars after they raided her neighbour's home, earning her the praise of a Worcester judge.

Former heroin addict Paul Gurney appeared at Worcester Crown Court on Tuesday after he burgled the home in Broughton Hackett near Worcester with an accomplice believed to be a youth.

The 29-year-old and a second burglar were chased off by a neighbour who caught them in the act on September 3 this year.

The neighbour shouted 'stop!' before the pair sped off in a Lexus and headed towards Peopleton to attempt another, similar raid just minutes later.

Gurney of Deacle Place, Evesham together with the same alleged accomplice who took part in the earlier burglary broke a window at the home in Peopleton but were disturbed and escaped empty-handed. The raids happened less than two months after Gurney was released from prison.

The other defendant, a youth who cannot be named, has yet to be dealt with separately by the courts.

Gurney got out of prison on July 11 and at the time of the raids he was on post sentence supervision after serving nine and a half weeks of an 18 week prison sentence for shoplifting.

The prosecution intend to apply to make Gurney the subject of a criminal behaviour order but this application will be heard another day.

He admitted burglary and attempted burglary, both taking place on September 3 this year.

The burglary happened at the Old Rectory in Broughton Hackett between 1.30pm and 2pm when the alarm was activated.

John Brotherton, prosecuting, said this attracted the attention of a neighbour who went to investigate, shouting at the burglars, one in a hood and the other in a balaclava, to 'stop!'

The neighbour earned the praise of Judge Robert Juckes QC who said: "It was a neighbour who gave chase. She had a certain amount of real determination."

The judge told Gurney: "You seem to have absolutely no idea of the misery you have caused people with the offences you commit."

The pair drove away in a grey Lexus on cloned plates. The burglars smashed the bay window, causing £120 worth of damage, and made off with £40 in cash.

Gurney was identified on CCTV as he rang the doorbell, before he covered his face and broke in.

At 2.30pm the same day Gurney was involved in an attempted burglary at Queen Anne Cottage in Peopleton. A neighbour became aware of two males running from the property and driving off at speed towards Upton Snodsbury. She discovered a broken window at the back of the property but nothing was stolen.

When interviewed Gurney denied involvement before claiming the person on the CCTV was his cousin even though he had the same distinctive tattoos as the defendant, Mr Brotherton told the court. Eventually conceded that the photo showed him but claimed his co-defendant, a youth, had smashed the window with a hammer.

Mr Brotherton said: "His antecedence demonstrates a history, initially, of violent offending." He has convictions for wounding and affray but more recently matters of dishonesty, including shoplifting. These are the first burglary matters on his record.

The victims of the burglary in Broughton Hackett said they were shocked by what had happened and had suffered the inconvenience of having to replace the window and upgrade the burglar alarm system.

Mr Brotherton said of the victims in Peopleton: "They say burglary has become a real problem out that way and they have a real fear of a repeat of that type of offending. It's had a negative effect on the residents of the village of Peopleton."

Belinda Ariss, defending, said: "To his credit he has managed to wean himself off heroin. His parents are in considerable debt and subject to repossession proceedings in respect of the family home. He was offered the opportunity to be part of the burglary and stupidly made the decision to go along with that to get some money to assist his parents."

Judge Juckes told Gurney: "You have set your course, it would seem, with a mind to spend most of your life in custody. You have been in trouble with the police consistently for a number of years." The judge told him that 'again and again' the courts had tried to give him opportunities through community orders and suspended sentences.

"You were disturbed by a neighbour who had the courage to chase you off" he said.

The judge jailed him for 30 months but warned him that if he was caught doing the same thing again he faced a minimum sentence of three years in prison.