A hammer-wielding intruder has been jailed after he attacked a brave elderly couple who confronted him at 3.20am in the hallway of their Bideford home.

Peter McDonald punched and kicked the 82-year-old husband and then attacked his 81-year-old wife with a weapon, leaving her with life-threatening head injuries.

He had done odd jobs for the couple the year before the attack and visited their home a few months earlier trying to borrow money which he claimed he needed for his mother’s funeral.

He broke into the house in Fordlands Crescent in the early hours of the morning and they awoke to hear someone downstairs and see a light moving around in the hallway.

They were attacked after they went to investigate. The husband suffered serious facial bruising after being punched on the nose and bruising to his legs and hip where he was kicked on the ground.

Peter McDonald.Peter McDonald.

His wife’s eye socket was fractured in two places and the impact of the blow led directly to her suffering a mini-stroke six weeks later. She needed life saving surgery at Derriford Hospital.

She thought she had been hit by a torch but the hammer was found next to where she and her husband lay injured in the hallway.

McDonald fled with her handbag and headed back to his home near the Abbey Road studios in North London, using the stolen bank cards on the way, enabling police were able to trace the movements of his Vauxhall Astra getaway car.

His identity was confirmed when his DNA were found on the hammer which he dropped at the scene and on the inside of a glove which had the victim’s blood on the outside and which police found in his car.

The raid left both victims frightened and feeling insecure in their own home, but they made impact statements saying they are determined to remain there.

McDonald, aged 30, of Abbey Road, London, admitted aggravated burglary, causing grievous bodily harm, and three counts of fraud or attempted fraud and was jailed for nine and a half years at Exeter Crown Court.

Judge Timothy Rose told him: “This was an utterly terrifying incident of appalling violence. The circumstances of this burglary were completely shocking. There was utterly no risk to you at all.

“You knew that this couple were in their 80s and clearly vulnerable in terms of their age. You knew exactly who you were burgling. They were not selected by chance. You positively identified this as a premises worth burgling.

“It is not clear if you used a weapon but it is a feature of this case that you had a hammer which you left behind. You were a fit young man. They were in their 80s and posed no possible realistic risk to you in terms of getting the better of you or stopping you from leaving.

“You could have left without any violence. The violence was gratuitous and entirely unnecessary for you to make good your escape. You caused one of them an extreme and life threatening outcome.”

The Judge said he would be sending a written letter of commendation to the officer in charge of the case, Detective Constable Stryka Blackwell, whose work led to McDonald being traced very quickly.

Richard Crabb, prosecuting, said the break-in happened at 3.20am on November 20 last year and the couple were attacked after making the brave decision to protect their home by going downstairs to confront the intruder.

They found a man whose face was concealed by a hoodie in the hallway next to the front door, which he had opened to make it easier to get out. He came in through a conservatory window. He stole a handbag with £200 cash and various bank and credit cards.

Police checked CCTV and automatic number plate recognition systems to identify the car and confirmed its route through the use or attempted use of the stolen cards on the A303 and on the edge of London.

Emily Pitts, defending, said McDonald denies using the hammer during the burglary but is ashamed of his behaviour and wants to apologise to the couple.

He was desperate for money to pay off debts and had no intention of disturbing or hurting the victims when he went into their home.