A drunk burglar who led police from the scene of a break-in to his own doorstep with a trail of footprints in the snow has been spared jail.
Lewis Ward, 28, snuck into a home in Raby Street, Darlington and took an iPad. He stole the tablet from a woman who was alone and waiting for her partner to come home from work.
Ward was arrested just 90 minutes after he walked in through his victim's unlocked front door after police followed his tracks from the scene of the crime to his own doorstep.
The home-owner was getting changed upstairs and when she spotted fresh snow on the living room carpet and saw her boyfriend had not returned, she realised there had been a break-in, Darlington Magistrates' Court heard.
Officers spotted distinctive trainer footprints in the snow by the victim's front door and followed the tracks down alleyways and back lanes.
Police spent an hour and a half following the mile long trail from the victim's home to Ward's house on the other side of town, where they discovered his trainers still wet, with identical patterns on the soles. They found the stolen iPad hidden in a bedroom in the house.
The court heard that Ward, who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and left the Army in 2007, made an immediate confession and showed police where he had hidden the tablet behind his wardrobe, the court heard.
Jonathan Harley, defending, said: "This is about the least planned burglary you are likely to see."
He said it was an "impulsive" and "silly act" which his client could neither remember nor explain.
He had got drunk following a row with his girlfriend, with whom he had a two-month old baby.
Chairman of the bench Rajeev Devgan said the offence was serious with the aggravating feature of the break-in happening when the victim was at home, alone.
Ward was handed a 26-week jail sentence, suspended for a year, with an order to carry out 240 hours unpaid work and was subjected to a weekend night-time curfew.
He must also pay £85 costs and a £80 victim surcharge from his benefits.
Mr Devgan said: "This is an opportunity for you to put things right."
Ward left court with a woolly hat pulled down tight on his head.