Ex-referee, 73, sent burglar packing

Former Scottish international rugby union referee, David Leslie, 73, scared burglar Ian McDuff off with his walking stick
Former Scottish international rugby union referee, David Leslie, 73, scared burglar Ian McDuff off with his walking stick
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A career criminal messed with the wrong man when he tried to burgle to home of a retired rugby referee.

Ian McDuff, 50, fled when confronted by 73-year-old David Leslie, who jabbed his walking stick in the crook’s chest after finding him stood in the hallway of his Lytham home.

McDuff, who went on to steal a Trinity Hospice charity tin from a nearby hotel, was jailed for 41 months after admitting a series of offences at Preston Crown Court. After the hearing, Mr Leslie said: “I knew what he was up to. It’s difficult to say if he was dangerous or not, but he was in my house without my permission so I wasn’t going to take that chance.”

Hours later McDuff, who fled the pair’s Upper Westby Street home empty-handed, stole a Trinity Hospice charity box containing between £10 an £15 from the nearby County Hotel.

He was arrested outside Sainsbury’s the next day, and admitted burglary, theft, and a bail offence at Preston Crown Court earlier this week.

He was jailed for a total of 41 months for his crimes.

Mr and Mrs Leslie today spoke of the moment they discovered McDuff in their home at around 9.30am on Monday, December 12 last year.

Mr Leslie, also a semi-retired environmental consultant, said it was a ‘bewildering’ moment for all involved.

He said: “I was looking and I asked, ‘Who are you?’ When he would not say, I said, ‘Get out’.

“I knew what he was up to. He was a bit surprised when there were two of us in the house.”

McDuff let himself into the couple’s home while Mr Leslie was taking the bins out, leaving the front door shut but not locked, the court was told.

After being challenged, he claimed his name was Peter Walsh and said he had found a set of keys, though he did not appear to be carrying anything.

“I just poked him,” Mr Leslie said. “It’s difficult to say if he was dangerous or not, but he was in my house without my permission so I wasn’t going to take that chance. He was just as perplexed as I was.”

Mrs Leslie, a retired BAE worker, had been upstairs but came down to help her husband tackle McDuff, who she said stunk of booze.

She added: “It hit me after that when we launched at him he could have had a weapon on him, and we were just getting stuck in there. We keep the front door locked now.”

McDuff, who was living in a caravan on Upper Westby Street, had been depressed and drinking heavily following the death of his partner earlier last year, the court was told.

Jailing him for 36 months for burglary, three months for theft, and two months for failing to answer bail, Judge Philip Barry told McDuff Mr and Mrs Leslie faced a ‘terrifying’ ordeal in a place where they are ‘entitled to feel secure and not bothered by people like you’.

He told the court on Monday: “The are to be commended for their bravery.”