A HOMEOWNER grappled with a burglar while his partner and eight week-old baby looked on, a court heard.

Andrew Murdoch had just been released from prison when he entered the unnamed family's home in Kyrle Street, Ross-on-Wye, initially looking for somewhere to sleep.

Hereford Crown Court was told the 42-year-old entered through an unsecured door at about 4.15am on May 29.

Prosecutor Paul Whitfield said the homeowner went to investigate a noise he heard downstairs and went to investigate. Once he got downstairs he saw torchlight coming from the living room where Murdoch was.

"He went into the living room and challenged the burglar," said Mr Whitfield.

"An ugly confrontation followed. The defendant charged at him and both ended up on the floor."

The tussle was witnessed by the victim's partner and eight week-old child who were watching from the top of the stairs.

Murdoch managed to escape but was stopped by police nearby. It later emerged he accidentally left a rucksack in the house.

He admitted a charge of burglary.

Mark Thompson, defending, said his client has battled drink and drugs and has an unenviable criminal record, although this was his first dwelling burglary since 2001.

"He had been released from custody a short time earlier to no home and no help," said Mr Thompson.

"He is homeless and had not eaten.

"He initially went to the property to look for some food."

Mr Thompson said it was "quite clear" that Murdoch wanted to flee the property when challenged, and says he regrets his actions.

"When he realised there was a young baby upstairs he was horrified; it shocked him," he said.

Judge Daniel Pearce-Higgins labelled Murdoch a prolific offender and sentenced him to two-and-a-half years in prison.

"Some might call the homeowner foolhardy, others brave," he said.

"But I commend him for his actions. It must have been very unpleasant."