A THIEF who took children’s presents from a family home in the early hours of Christmas Day has been jailed for six years.

Stephen Sands, 43, of no fixed abode, took handfuls of wrapped gifts, including toys and clothing from the house in Mill Court, Netherton, as his victims slept upstairs.

Louise Egerton and fiance Lee Fessey realised what had happened only when a police officer woke them at 5.30am last Christmas Day to tell them their door was open.

The couple then discovered that all the presents for their children, nine-year-old Aaron, eight-year-old Chloe and 16-month-old Tia, had been taken.

Shop assistant Ms Egerton, 22, said: “We had left the kids’ present in the lounge on Christmas Eve and gone to bed at about 11pm.

“At 5.30am we were woken by a policeman banging on the door. We just thought the door was open. It wasn’t until we looked that we realised the presents were gone from under the tree.

“There had been about 40 presents, worth around £600 in all, including clothes, games, Bratz Dolls and Transformers, and there were only about six or seven left.

“It took a bit to sink in. We didn’t know what to think. It felt like a dream, like it wasn’t really happening.

“The kids came downstairs and we had to explain to them what had happened.

“Aaron just said ‘it’s ok at least they didn’t steal the baby’.

“All Aaron’s presents were gone, so we gave him a toiletries set, which was supposed to be for my brother, so he would have something to open. He was made up even though it had shaving gel in it.”

Liverpool crown court had previously heard that Sands was arrested later on Christmas Day and led police officers to where he had hidden the presents, which he said he didn’t know were intended for children until he opened them.

The presents were returned to the family later the same day.

Louise said: “We got the presents back at about 1.30pm but they had all been unwrapped and were covered in fingerprint dust.

“All the neighbours and our family came round with extra presents for the kids and we were really pleased with the way they behaved through it all.”

The court was told that Sands, who pleaded guilty to burglary had 15 previous convictions and was a three-strike burglar.

In passing sentence, Judge Ian Trigger said he had a “disgraceful and despicable record”.

Stuart Nolan, defending, said Sands was a long-standing abuser of drugs and had committed what he accepted to be “a particularly mean and spiteful offence.”

Judge Ian Trigger said: “The presents were recovered, but that would have been scant consolation to the children and the occupants who were devastated.”