AN ELDERLY woman was bound to her stairs and had a pillowcase thrown over her head while men ransacked her home, stealing family heirlooms including a Military Cross medal.

The 72-year-old was in bed at around 2.30am on March 23, last year, when she was woken by masked men, shining a torch into her face and asking her for the code for her safe.

They then walked her down the stairs, putting black tape around her hands – tying her to the banister – before putting a pillowcase over her head.

Today (Thursday) at Winchester Crown Court Eriks Valants and Jed Martin were jailed for 10 years for the terrifying ordeal which left victim Susan Hunt frightened to live in her home.

On the night of the break-in the men made four attempts to get into the victim’s home, in Leckford, during one of those they cut out a pane of glass from the swimming pool area but was unable to get through a locked door.

Andrew Houston, prosecuting, said that Mrs Hunt said it “felt like hours” that they were in her home, which left her feeling “traumatised, disoriented and scared”.

He added: “There was a slight piece of compassion, they asked how long it would be until anyone came. Telling her you can live on water for three days [adding] ‘I can’t be unkind I have to do this'.”

The court was told that the robbers gave her water, fruit and a yoghurt, before leaving her home - knowing that she would remain tied up for at least 24 hours.

Mr Houston said: “Using her teeth this elderly lady showed commendable courage and was able to free her hands and call 999. She bit her way through the black tape.

“Unsurprisingly she described herself as terribly frightened that people were going to come back.”

When police arrived they found a knife that had been left outside the house.

The gang stole cash and jewellery including a Cartier ring, Omega watch, three string pearl necklace and David Morris pearl and diamond necklace with matching earrings, worth around £215,000.

They also took her father-in-law’s Military Cross medal from the Second World War, with a letter signed by King George. None of the items were ever recovered.

In mitigation, Peter Asteris said that Valants, 23, of Cotswold Road, Southampton, has “significant remorse” for what he has done. He continued: “He had lost his job at that point, and your honour would have seen the spiral of addiction."

He added that Valants was in trouble with some dangerous people and "he is horrified with what he allowed himself to become involved with on that night".

Representing Martin, 27, of Evenlode Road, Southampton, Tessa Shroff said that he had been “for a long time spiralling” and he carried out the robbery “under pressure to repay a debt”.

She told the court that he wishes to “express remorse and express sympathy for the impact on her (Mrs Hunt)”, and since being in prison has sought counselling following a troubled childhood.

The pair had pleaded guilty to robbery at an earlier hearing.