A homeowner was left with a £7,000 repair bill after her house was trashed overnight – by a SQUIRREL.
Gutted Margaret Bousfield, 64, came downstairs in the morning to find the angry rodent had ransacked her living room.
The squirrel had fallen down her chimney and clawed, bitten and soiled her curtains, furniture, sofa and carpets.
It had even made a desperate attempt to get out – by scratching through the plastic double-glazing window frames.
Margaret, a magistrate, was asleep at the time but was eventually woken up when the squirrel triggered the burglar alarm.
She feared she had been burgled and ran downstairs to find the squirrel trapped in the front room.
The mum-of-two called in a neighbour who tried to corner the furry vandal and opened a window to let the creature escape.
Margaret, of Hartlepool, had to replace her carpets and sofa and was left with a bill of over £7,000.
She said: “The first thing I heard was the burglar alarm go off as it woke me up.
“My first thought was that someone was downstairs. My neighbour entered the room holding a cushion to his chest.
“The squirrel was going wild but he managed to open a window and it was covered in dirt and it shot from the house like a bullet.”
Margaret has now completely refurbished the room following the incident – but luckily the cost was covered by insurance.
The former headteacher added: “The room’s smell was a combination of smoky soot from the fire, squirrel urine and pollen and stale water from a knocked over lily vase.
“The disruption was unbelievable. My first thought was ‘I’ll just clean this up’. I didn’t realise how long the damage would take to sort.
“I’m quite a strong critter but I had chosen the sofa material with my late husband, John, so when I was told the sofa and carpets had to be replaced it really did affect me.”
Margaret is not sure if it was a red or grey squirrel, adding “it was a black squirrel from the soot”.
She has now stepped up security at her home with a new mesh placed over the fireplace to deter a return visit.
Margaret believes the squirrel may have knocked itself out on falling down the chimney and reacted so violently after it woke up because it was disorientated.
Squirrel expert Ian Bond, Hartlepool Borough Council’s ecologist, said: “This type of thing can happen in other areas with far more trees than we have because squirrels are always on the hunt for the right environment to build a home.
“They do not just have to live in trees and are known to take up residence in lofts and attics.
“It may well be that it was looking for somewhere desirable to live when it fell down the chimney.”
Mr Bond believes the intruder was likely to have been a grey squirrel as the rarer red variety has not been spotted in Hartlepool since 2005.
He added: “They have a formidable pair of incisors and have a go at gnawing anything to get to where they need to be.”