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Hooded thief found in bedroom leaning over Belfast couple's baby

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When Connolly was arrested and searched, items that had been stolen from two cars parked in Frenchpark Street, including a yellow handbag, were seized (stock photo)

When Connolly was arrested and searched, items that had been stolen from two cars parked in Frenchpark Street, including a yellow handbag, were seized (stock photo)

When Connolly was arrested and searched, items that had been stolen from two cars parked in Frenchpark Street, including a yellow handbag, were seized (stock photo)

A couple from south Belfast woke in the middle of the night to find a hooded figure leaning over their baby who was sleeping in a Moses basket, a court heard yesterday.

The hooded figure - Stephen Gerard Connolly - appeared at Belfast Crown Court where he was handed a sentence of two years and eight months. He will serve half of this in prison, with the remaining half on licence.

Judge Smyth told Connolly: "In my view it is difficult to contemplate a more terrifying experience than finding a stranger dressed in black leaning over a vulnerable child in the middle of the night."

The 27-year-old, whose address was given as Maghaberry, admitted five charges committed on August 16 last year, including breaking into the house occupied by the couple and their baby.

At around 12.45am on that date, a resident of Frenchpark Street saw a man carrying a yellow handbag over his shoulder. This man, Connolly, was seen turning on to Lecale Street and at around 1am the residents of a house on that street were woken by a hooded figure leaning over their sleeping baby.

The couple noted a strong smell of alcohol from Connolly and when the male occupant leapt from his bed and towards Connolly he fled the bedroom. The incident continued in the living room and at this point Connolly shouted he had a knife and ran at the male resident.

Despite this claim, the male occupant restrained Connolly and a neighbour arrived to offer assistance and police were called.

While the couple did not sustain any physical injuries, they were both left in fear over Connolly's claims that he had a knife.

When Connolly was arrested and searched, items that had been stolen from two cars parked in Frenchpark Street, including a yellow handbag, were seized.

Judge Smyth told Connolly that while the break-in displayed a lack of sophistication, there was a confrontation with the couple who were woken by the "terror of finding you in close proximity to a sleeping child".

The judge noted that whilst in custody, Connolly has missed several significant events, including the birth of his first child.

She also noted he had addiction issues and couldn't remember the events of last August "because of alcohol".

Belfast Telegraph