By Daniel Machin
A magistrate was left with a £7,000 repair bill after a rogue squirrel trashed her living room.
Margaret Bousfield initially thought she was being robbed as the rodent fell down her chimney and triggered the burglar alarm.
On coming down the stairs to confront the would-be intruders, however, the 64-year-old discovered the squirrel going nuts in the front room.
It clawed the curtains, soiled the carpets and ruined a sofa in a desperate bid to escape.
'The squirrel was going wild'
Eventually a neighbour came to the aid of Ms Bousfield, opening a window through which the unwelcome visitor made a hasty exit.
"The disruption was unbelievable," she said. "My first thought was 'I'll just clean this up'. I didn't realise how long the damage would take to sort.
"The squirrel was going wild but (the neighbour) managed to open a window and it was covered in dirt and it shot from the house like a bullet."
Home insurers agreed to pay for the damage
The mother of two, who lives in Hartlepool and works as a magistrate, has since refurbished the room after her home insurers agreed to pay for the damage.
She has replaced most items, including the carpets and sofa, as well as hiring cleaners to get rid of the soot and urine smell that was left behind.
It is most likely that the intruder was a grey squirrel, as the rarer red variety has not been spotted in Hartlepool since 2005.