AN ex-drug addict who subjected his partner to a sustained midnight assault told a neighbour she had been the attacker and had eaten his chocolate, a court heard.

Burnley magistrates were told how vulnerable Shelly Conway had been set on by Mark Wathen, 39, who had punched her in the head, pushed her around the room at their Brush Street home in the town and covered her mouth with his hands.

Their neighbour, alerted by screams, arrived to see the defendant degrading the victim by picking her up from the floor by her hair. Wathen told the neighbour: “Look at her, attacking me again, like she always does.”

The neighbour at the other side of the couple’s home, who had also heard the victim's cries, had gone round and had also been told by the defendant that Ms Conway had just assaulted him. The neighbour knew it was the victim he had heard screaming and not Wathen.

The hearing was told how the defendant, who was on methadone and Ms Conway, said by Wathen to be addicted to valium and a heroin user, had started their 18 month relationship after meeting at a chemist's shop. They were still together and he wanted to be a good partner to her.

Wathen had stood in the dock facing immediate jail, but was given 12 weeks in prison, suspended for a year, with 12 months supervision. He must also pay £85 costs and an £80 victim surcharge, after admitting assault by beating on March 20.

Prosecutor Tracy Yates said Ms Conway had suffered a painful and swollen eye, a mark to her arm and soreness.

Nick Dearing, defending, said Wathen was ashamed of what happened.

Wathen has 30 offences on his record.