Student and partner woke to see burglar at end of bed

Joel Lawrence who has been jailed after admitting three burglaries in Norwich last year.

Joel Lawrence who has been jailed after admitting three burglaries in Norwich last year. - Credit: Norfolk Constabulary

A student chased a burglar out of his flat after waking to find the raider at the bottom of the bed he and his partner were sleeping in.

Joel Lawrence, 48, who has 57 previous convictions for 146 offences  - including 19 burglaries - got into a flat in Mandells Court, near Elm Hill, Norwich through an unlocked door.

Norwich Crown Court heard a young couple were awoken by a noise and “saw a figure at the end of the bed”.

Ian James, prosecuting, said: "It must’ve been extremely frightening."

He said the man “jumped out of bed and screamed at the figure who screamed back and ran out of the flat”.

Mr James said with “considerable fortitude of character” he chased the intruder and caught up with Lawrence but let him go after being told others were "around the corner".

In a victim impact statement the student described how he let Lawrence go as he did not want to put himself or his partner in any more danger than they were but regretted it and “beat myself up for it, thinking I could’ve done more”.

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He said the incident, in February last year, had affected his sleep, his studies and left him battling with depression over the thought he did not do enough.

His partner, who was terrified, said: “I didn’t know what to do - I froze in complete terror as the man I love pursued him.”

The woman now has to deal with sleepless nights and “night terrors” after which she wakes up screaming.

Lawrence, of Barnard’s Yard, Norwich, appeared for sentence on Wednesday, February 24 having previously admitted three counts of burglary.

The other burglaries included one at a property in Earlham Road in February last year and a burglary at University of East Anglia student accommodation last April.

He also admitted four counts of fraud, relating to items bought with cards stolen in the raids.

Jailing Lawrence for a total of 45 months, Judge Anthony Bate said he was a man who, unless he mended his ways, “had all the hallmarks of a career burglar”.

Stephen Cooke, mitigating, said Lawrence's record made for depressing reading but insisted he was “passionate about changing his life”.

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