When Ashley Blakey left her house to attend an interview, she hadn’t expected to spot a staff member from her rental company rummaging through her lingerie on camera.
The 36-year-old lived alone with her teenage daughter, 18, and so had previously set up the technology in each room to ensure their safety.
She is sharing her story to warn other women who live on their own and to raise awareness for the “violating” experience.
“Anger boiled inside of me as I watched him open my underwear drawer and rifle through my lingerie,” Ashley, who works in hospitality, from County Durham, told NeedToKnow.co.uk.
“When I arrived home, I opened the drawer and felt sick at the thought of the maintenance man’s hands all over my pants and bras.
“I had to throw it all away – but while I was chucking my underwear in the bin, I noticed a pair of black satin pants were missing.
“Instantly, I knew he had stolen them for his own sick sexual pleasure.”
Ashley claims there was no reason for the man to be upstairs, as the broken alarm he was called to fix was situated in her kitchen.
While she didn’t feel comfortable leaving him in her home alone, she had no other choice as the aforementioned interview was 45 minutes away in Newcastle, but was certain it would be safe as he worked for her rental company, Thirteen Housing.
As her phone vibrated with a notification from her CCTV app indicating movement, she recalls feeling “sick to her stomach.”
In the clip, a man dressed in a red uniform can be seen walking into the bedroom, before he kneels down and proceeds to open up a draw.
He then rummages through, as he looks around, and then places an item into his pocket and walks out the door.
She said: “I rang the rental company and I screamed at them about what their workman was doing – so they phoned and told him to leave.
“I felt sick and I was sweating and shaking.
“As I realised my satin pants had been nicked, I asked them for answers, where they told me he had been dismissed from his role.”
Ashley claims the workman was also arrested on the spot, but in January 2023, he was released with no further action as there was “no real prospect of conviction.”
The incident occurred on 5 May 2022.
She received a payout of £200 to put towards cleaning the property but has now moved out, with the 36-year-old saying the damage is already done and more awareness needs to be raised before a similar situation occurs.
She said: “It’s been an absolute kick in the teeth and I feel completely violated.
“I no longer feel safe in my own home and I shouldn’t have to feel like that.
“This experience has not only destroyed my trust in my rental company but in all strangers.
“I have a teenage daughter, what if she’d been in the house at the time?
“I hope by sharing my story that other women who live on their own are warned to keep their wits about them – no one is as innocent as they seem.”
Jam Press has contacted Thirteen Housing and County Durham police for comment.
A spokesperson for Durham Constabulary said: “Police were called to reports of a burglary that reportedly took place at an address in Edgemoor Road, in Darlington, on May 5 last year.
“Officers launched an investigation and arrested a 36-year-old man in connection with the incident.
“After gathering all available evidence, a file was submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service, who concluded that there was no realistic prospect of conviction based upon the evidential test which is required before someone is charged with a criminal offence.
“As a result, the man was released with no further action.”
A spokesperson for Thirteen Housing said: “The safety of our customers is our absolute priority.
“As soon as we became aware of the incident last year, we carried out a full investigation, and we moved quickly to deal with the individual who no longer works for us.
“Colleagues spoke with and visited the customer and apologised for what occurred.
“We also provided options to the customer if she wished to pursue them, as well as compensation for the unfortunate event.
“We have clear behavioural standards and values that all our staff must follow, and we greatly regret that the actions of a sole employee have caused distress and we would like to once again apologise to the customer.
“I can assure customers that references and pre-employment checks are carried out and where required DBS checks are undertaken in line with the duties of the role’s colleagues perform at Thirteen.
“We expect the highest of standards from our colleagues, and we’d like to reassure the customer that this incident was addressed swiftly.”