An 87-year-old woman was left traumatised after a burglar broke into her home while she was alone watching television, Carlisle Crown Court has heard.

The old lady, who is housebound with Alzheimers, called the police in panic after she heard 44-year-old Derek McKechan going up the stairs at her house in Old Lake Road, Ambleside.

And she listened in terror as he moved around upstairs – stealing from her bedroom and the room of her full-time carer, prosecutor Becky McGregor said.

McKechan, a career criminal with dozens of previous convictions for burglary, eventually fled from the house after hearing the television.

Until then, the court heard, he had assumed the house was unoccupied because nobody had answered his knocks at the door.

Ms McGregor told the court the pensioner usually had someone to look after her 24 hours a day, but on that day – October 16 last year – her carer was out at the dentist’s.

McKechan got away with a gold ring worth about £200, and £50 in cash which was in the carer’s bedroom.

The police met McGechan walking down the driveway as they arrived in answer to the old lady’s 999 call.

He ran off, but was caught after a quarter-mile chase back towards the Miller Bridge car park, where he had left his car.

The old lady was so frightened by what happened that she has spent £2,500 on making her home more secure, Ms McGregor said.

“Her sense of security in her own home has been shaken and she is even more frail and confused than she was before,” she said.

McKechan, of Foxbar, Paisley, Glasgow, pleaded guilty to burglary.

He denied a second charge of driving while disqualified was left lying on the court file and it will not be proceeded with.

In mitigation defence advocate Gareth James said McKechan only ever broke into houses he thought were unoccupied.

“Once he realised he was not alone he did not seek a confrontation and exited the same way he had come in,” he said.

The judge, Recorder Terence Rigby jailed McKechan for three years and made him pay £1,900 in compensation, with a £120 victim surcharge.

He told him: “You have probably been in more criminal courts than I have. You have over the years been a professional and a professional burglar – and I don’t mean that as a compliment.”

But he said McKechan was now at an age when he might change.

“In my experience there does come a time in the life of professional criminals when they eventually realise, with the sentences getting longer and longer, that they finally have to stop committing offences because it is just not worth it. Hopefully that is what is going to happen to you now.”