Exeter Crown Court reporter Ted Davenport writes for Herald.

A neighbour has been cleared of breaking into a single mother’s home after telling a jury that he had been in a secret relationship with her.

Jack Duncan’s DNA was found on a sealed up catflap at a house in Honiton which had been broken open by an intruder while the owner was away for the weekend.

She is a single mother who said he had never been to the house in St Leonards Road but Duncan told a jury at Exeter Crown Court that he had conducted a five-month secret affair with the woman the previous year.

He said he had used the back door when he went outside to smoke cannabis in her garden and that his DNA could have got onto the catflap in that way.

Duncan, aged 25, of St Leonards Road, Honiton, denied burglary and was found not guilty. He was discharged by Recorder Mr Don Tait.

During a four-day trial, Mr Rowan Jenkins, prosecuting, said the burglary took place in June 2020 when the owner had gone away for a weekend with her partner while leaving her two children with her ex-husband.

She returned to find that about £1,000 worth of property had been stolen including jewellery, sweets from an under stairs cupboard, and alcohol. A toy box had been knocked over in the living room.

The cupboard where she kept treats and chocolate locked up away from her children had been opened using a key which she kept in an egg cup on a kitchen shelf.

A police scenes of crime officer recovered a DNA hit from material which had been used to seal up the catflap, which had been broken to gain entry to the house.

The owner told the jury that Duncan had come to her door a few days later to deny local rumours that he was responsible for the break in. She denied having an affair with him the previous year and said she only knew him as a friend of her brother-in-law.

Duncan said he had no idea how his DNA got onto the door but said he thought he was away visiting friends in Southampton at the time of the burglary.

He said he had visited the house regularly while having a sexual relationship with the owner for about five or six months between February and the autumn of 2019. He said he had not been back since.

He said the cat flap had been in use at the time and had not been sealed up and so his DNA may have got onto it from a cat which he had touched. He said his memory of the time was hazy because he was a heavy user of cannabis at the time.