How did he know she had been recently burgled or was it a case of a villain returning to the scene of the crime? Such was the conundrum facing detectives who launched a manhunt for an intruder who terrified a Southampton housewife.

Irene Plascott had opened her front door to a 'police officer' claiming he was investigating a break-in at her home some three months earlier, but he brutally gagged and bundled her into a cupboard at knife-point before ransacking her home.

Her ordeal left true detectives with a puzzle - were the two raids carried out by the same person or was it the work of another intruder who knew of the earlier episode when a radio and about £20 in cash were taken.

The drama, which dominated the Echo headlines on February 10, 1959, happened when she was alone at her house in Waterloo Road, Freemantle. Her husband was at work as a driver for Southampton-based Solent Flour Mills when she heard a knock on the door and was confronted by a man of about average height and 30 years of age who purported to be a detective from Bournemouth CID.

Mrs Plascott, 26, thought it was the same person who had called a few weeks earlier when he asked for directions to nearby Paynes Road. She did not like his demeanour then and her husband bought her a puppy to act as a guard dog. But before it could intervene, the thug produced the long-bladed knife and forced her back into the kitchen where he demanded to know where she kept her money.

Bournemouth Echo: Irene Plascott

She told him the only cash she had was in her handbag which he rifled for £10 and then plundered the electricity meter. He then pushed her back into the cupboard, barricading her in with furniture and threatening to slash her if she screamed for help.

Left terrified in the dark, she heard him moving about the house which he ransacked for the measly sum of just £1. He then re-opened the cupboard, gagging his victim with a dressing gown and the dog's lead before fleeing. After freeing herself, she ran to neighbours to call the police.

In a similar scenario on April 7, 1971, old soldier Percy Hibbert followed police advice when a stranger calls - ask for proof of identity.

"Good morning, sir, I am detective." But before he could elaborate, he demanded: "Then please show me your identification."

But instead of producing his warrant card, the man suddenly brandished a knife which he thrust into him.

Fortunately, his wife Bessie, who had also gone to the door, saw the blow coming and managed to push her husband partially out of the way.

The plucky pensioner, who had been awarded the MBE for his army service, courageously struggled with the attacker on the doorstep of their home in Oak Road, Fareham, before fending him off and bolting the front door.

Their poodle, Perry, then barked so loudly the would-be robber ran off to a light blue saloon car parked in Beech Road some 150 yards away and accelerated away.

Bournemouth Echo: The Stag Hotel, Lyndhurst

Mrs Hibberd ran out of the house to raise the alarm with neighbours and the police who were baffled as to why the couple had been singled out.

Her husband, who was treated for a minor wound by his doctor, had served with the Royal Engineers and the Hampshire Regiment before taking charge of the 393 Company of the Indian Medical Service.

Following retirement, he went into the hotel trade, initially running the Stag Hotel in Lyndhurst and then the Talbot Hotel in Winchester, where Bessie became chairman of the ladies Auxiliary of the Licensed Victuallers Association.