A man today told how he asked his girlfriend to marry him in the back of a police van after burglars stole the diamond engagement ring he was planning to propose with on New Year's Eve.
Jason and Nicola, who did not want to reveal their full names, were devastated when they returned from spending Christmas with family to find that burglars had broken into their home on The Wynd, in Pelton, County Durham.
And the 20-year-old's surprise proposal plans were ruined when he had to tell police exact details of what was missing - including the £330 ring he had hidden in a bedside cabinet.
So while crime scene investigators were dusting their house for fingerprints, he asked 21-year-old Nicola to marry him as they waited in the police van.
Jason said: "When we were sitting giving statements, I had to tell her about the ring and what it was for," he said.
"I didn't have room to get down on one knee so I just faced her and said 'Well I was going to propose on New Year's Eve but since the game's been given away, will you marry me?'
"She said yes and then got quite emotional. It was a mixture of joy and upset and stress."
He added: "That was that little thing that was quite positive but unfortunately it was overwhelmed by everything else.
"I didn't really want it that way. I've never been in trouble with the police in my life - that's the first time I've ever been in the back of a police van."
The couple, who met at school, have been in a relationship for 10 months.
"I knew this was the lass I wanted to be with for the rest of my life," Jason said.
"I'm really over the moon that she said yes. This will just make us stronger and we're just going to bounce back."
Jason added that his main concern now was for the safety of Nicola and her two-year-old daughter.
When asked if he had a message for the burglars, who also took televisions, a computer games console and a camera, he said: "Get a heart. It's Christmas time. Hand yourselves in and give our stuff back - it's not yours.
"I just don't understand how somebody could stoop so low, especially at this time of the year."
A Durham Police spokesman said: "A young couple left their home in The Wynd, Pelton, to spend time with family over Christmas but, on their return on Boxing Day, they found thieves had broken into their house and stolen various items, including a diamond engagement ring which had been hidden ready for New Year's Eve when the young man was going to propose.
"Instead, he proposed in the back of the police van while CSI were fingerprinting their house.
"An appeal is made for the return of the ring."Suggest a correction