Retired builder Peter Chapman was taking a late afternoon nap in his lounge when he heard the sound of drawers opening and shutting in his bedroom.

He got up and opened the door into the hall, only to be confronted in the darkness by the figure of a hooded man. Mr Chapman, 71, of Drake Road, Eaton Socon, grabbed an umbrella but retreated back into the room as he could see the man had something in his hand.

The intruder fled from the bungalow and as he left, Mr Chapman discovered money and jewellery had gone. The ordeal occurred last year, just after the clocks had gone back when burglars take advantage of shorter days to target homes.

Mr Chapman, a father and grandfather, was reliving the shock of that day at a crime prevention event held at his home last Tuesday.

The event, part of Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s Get Close campaign, was staged to raise awareness about the precautions that householders can take to ensure they do not become a victim of crime – particularly at this time of year.

“When I was awoken by the noise of the drawers opening and shutting I thought – what the hell is that?” said Mr Chapman. “It could have been worse. My attitude is I was lucky – he could have had a mate and they could have attacked me.”

The burglar got in over a low wall, which has since been built up with a fence, then kicked in a conservatory panel to break into the home.

The Bobby Scheme, a charity funded by donations which provides a free service to victims of burglary aged 60 and over, visited his home after the incident to fit home security devices including door chains as well as door and window alarms.

Mr Chapman said the devices were excellent. “I only have to sneeze in the bathroom and the window alarm goes off! I feel completely safe now, but something like this does change your life.”

Bobby Scheme security advisor Steve Price, a former retained fireman, has worked with the scheme for five years. He said: “When we visit someone who has just suffered a crime we also spend time with them to reassure them, have a cup of tea and a chat – give advice about how to keep safe, such as leaving lights and a radio on in the house when they go out.”

Mr Price revealed how he had witnessed the devastating effect of crime on older people, including a woman so traumatised by a distraction burglary that she would not go to bed and slept in her chair for seven days – she died of hypothermia.

Last winter, there were 961 
burglaries in the county during the four months November to February. The police are concerned that burglars will target homes from mid to late afternoon and will look for properties that are or appear to be unoccupied.

Community reduction officer Carol Aston said: “Properties are generally broken into from the rear because the burglar doesn’t want to be seen so people should make it as difficult as possible to access their back garden. Tall fencing, noisy gravel, spiky hedges and an alarm system are all worth the investment.”