Derby police said that shortly before 8pm on Sunday, Mrs Beckett's husband, Leo, answered the door at the couple's home in the city and the youths burst in.
In the attack - described by police as aggravated burglary - the intruders threatened the couple and searched their home. They made off with some credit cards, jewellery, a driving licence and a small amount of cash. The couple and a friend who was with them at the time were unhurt. Mrs Beckett, MP for Derby South since 1983, said yesterday: 'It was not a pleasant experience. But I don't think I was particularly singled out, there have been quite a number of break-ins in the area. It is one of those things that happen.'
Police yesterday issued descriptions of three youths. Two of the youths were white, with shortish hair, clean shaven, and 5ft 6in to 5ft 7in tall. The third was dark- skinned, with dark hair in a 'modern' style, 5ft 9in to 5ft 10in tall, and clean shaven. All three were wearing dark clothing, possibly blue 'modern style' anoraks.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Hall, who is leading the inquiry, said: 'It was a very nasty incident and a frightening experience for all the people involved. We are looking at several local connections for it. It's more of an opportunist incident than specifically targeted at Mrs Beckett.'
He said the threats were mainly verbal, although at one point half- way through the 20-minute ordeal one raider picked up a kitchen knife and threatened the Becketts and their friend with it. They were 'all badly shaken but nobody was physically hurt'. He said there was some doubt over the number of youths involved: 'There were definitely three, but there may have been a fourth. They got the impression there may have been a fourth person they were talking to, but who was out of sight or in the doorway.'
Mrs Beckett won Labour's deputy leadership last summer. She married Mr Beckett - often regarded as her political mentor - in 1979.Reuse content