A DEFIANT pensioner repeatedly whacked an intruder with a walking stick after confronting him in her home in the middle of the night.

Doris Thiele, 84, refused to be intimidated when she caught serial burglar Leon Ingram searching the house she shares with her daughter Helen.

He struggled to break free during an eight-minute tussle that began in an upstairs room and ended in the conservatory.

At one point Mrs Thiele grabbed her late father’s walking stick and struck Ingram several times as he continued to wrestle with her daughter at their home in Ashley, New Milton.

He eventually got away by head-butting his way through a glass door, gashing his head.

Police arrived minutes later and followed the trail of blood to a nearby flat, where Ingram was arrested.

Mrs Thiele and her daughter were later presented with police bravery awards.

Ingram, of Andrew Lane, New Milton, admitted burglary when he appeared at Southampton Crown Court.

The 34-year-old heroin user, who had 32 previous convictions, was jailed for three years. Four other burglaries and four shoplifting offences were taken into consideration.

In an impact statement Helen Thiele, 59, an administrator at the Lymington New Forest Hospital, said: “I want this man to know that walking away with no thought for the devastation he has caused me and my mother is something I cannot understand.”

Speaking after the case Doris Thiele said she woke at 3am and realised that one of the upstairs lights was on. Thinking her daughter might be ill, she got up to investigate and discovered Ingram searching the spare bedroom.

“I decided to stand my ground but screamed when he came towards me,” she said.

“My daughter rushed out of her room and put her arm around his neck. He struggled to get away but I clung to his clothing.”

Ingram managed to get downstairs but lost his bearings.

Mrs Thiele added: “He kept shouting ‘Wrong house – let me go’ but I grabbed my father’s walking stick and kept hitting him. We weren’t going to let him go and he knew it.”

Mrs Thiele worked for the Australian Air Force in London at the end of the Second World War and later became a civil servant.

She was widowed when her daughter was five.

“I’ve worked hard all my life and can’t abide the thought of someone coming along and trying to take it from you,” she said.

Mrs Thiele, who was badly bruised in the incident, added: “I’m amazed at myself and my daughter, who was wonderful.”