Burglar poured petrol over homeowner and threatened to burn house down before stealing dog

A couple were left terrified when threats were made to burn their house down after waking up to be confronted by two burglars who stole their pet dog.

Rhys Evans, 28, and Billy Cook, 26, gained entry to a County Durham home in the middle of the night to commit a terrifying burglary. When the sleeping homeowners woke up to find them in their bedroom, Evans began punching the man repeatedly in the face before producing a bottle of “accelerant” and threatened to burn the house down.

The couple’s pet dog was then stolen by the burglars, but when the female victim ran after them, Evans doused the woman in the liquid and threatened to set her alight. During the horrific incident, Cook was “pleading” with Evans to stop before both were eventually arrested.

On Tuesday, Evans and Cook jointly appeared at Durham Crown Court via link from HMP Durham to be sentenced. Evans was jailed for aggravated burglary, threats with a weapon, and two counts of assault. Cook received a suspended prison sentence for burglary.

The court was told that the homeowners, a couple, were asleep in their Horden home on August 27 last year when they woke up at around 4.30am to be confronted with Evans and Cook standing in their bedroom. Both victims recognised the men.

Sue Hirst, prosecuting, said: “Evans began punching [the man] repeatedly in the face. His partner witnessed this and recognised Cook and was challenging him. Evans made threats [to the man] saying he would set the house alight if he didn’t get out of bed. He produced an accelerant, reinforcing the threat.

“Evans then picked up the pet dog that was in the bedroom. Both defendants left the address with the dog. [The female victim] followed them, pleading for their dog to be returned. Evans turned around and doused her with the accelerant from the bottle and made threats to set her and the home alight.”

The court heard that Cook was telling Evans to “stop” and urged him to return the dog to the couple. Cook pleaded guilty on the basis that he had no prior plan to burgle the home and had “no awareness” that Evans was in possession of a bottle of accelerant, which the female victim said smelled of “petrol”.

Evans was later arrested hiding in a garden, with Cook being arrested at his home address where the stolen dog was also found. Both men made no reply in police interview.

Evans, of Trotter Terrace, Shotton Colliery, had 10 previous convictions for 15 offences, including possession of a knife, criminal damage, and non-dwelling burglary in 2021. Last year, he was also jailed for 36 weeks for a burglary offence. Ian West, defending Evans, said the only mitigation that could be put forward was his early guilty plea.

Cook, of Milton Grove, Shotton Colliery, had three previous convictions for eight offences, including assault occasioning actual bodily harm, criminal damage, and driving matters. Tony Davis, defending, said Cook took a “secondary role” and was “not the principal offender”. He added: “He will be at pains for me to point out that he attempted to distance himself from the offending and was trying to assist in getting the dog back.”

Judge Robert Adams jailed Evans for 81 months and imposed a 10 year restraining order. Addressing Cook, he said: “You were not aware [Evans] had petrol and were asking him to stop.”

Cook was given a 16 month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months and must complete 200 hours unpaid work. A 10 year restraining order was also imposed.

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