HE seemed like the perfect neighbour – a hard-working family man, only too happy to help.

Steven Gill would look after the home of the family next door when they went on holiday, and carry out odd jobs.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

CCTV of Steven Gill in the bedroom

If keen athlete Sharon Bulman wanted to go for a run or to the gym at night while her daughter was asleep, he would sit in the house.

In seven years as neighbours in Skelton, east Cleveland, Sharon and husband James, had always got on well with the father-of-two and his wife Karen.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

CCTV shows Steve Gill in the bedroom

When strange things started happening in the Bulman home – finding things in places they had not left them – they turned amateur detective to crack the case.

Karen, 45, put cotton thread on door handles and on a picture, to see if there was a mystery intruder if they fell off – and they did.

Once, while she went for run and Gill looked after her daughter, Sharon deliberately left her underwear drawer slightly open, and got home to find it shut.

The Bulmans bought a motion-sensitive camera and set it up in their bedroom.

Within four days, it captured Gill closing the curtains, getting a pair of stockings from the drawer and putting them on the bed before looking at his mobile phone while he performed a sex act with a pop sock.

The 49-year-old put the stockings back in the drawer, opened the curtains and left.

When the astonished couple saw the footage, they contacted police and Gill was arrested at his home on October 20.

Officers also seized a flesh-coloured pop sock and a mobile phone – which contained images of Sharon.

Long-distance lorry driver Gill confessed to secretly having a copy of their key cut and to having a fetish for women’s underwear.

He appeared at Teesside Crown Court, after admitting burglary and stalking, and was given a 12-month suspended jail sentence, ordered to attend a sex offenders’ treatment programme, carry out 150 hours of unpaid work, pay £200 costs and £500 compensation to Sharon.

Describing the offences of burglary and stalking as “highly unusual examples”, Judge Peter Armstrong told him: “It was quite extraordinary behaviour for a man of 49 with no previous convictions.

“Suspecting things only happened when you were there, your neighbours carried out some detective work and eventually a camera caught you doing, what has been rightly described, as quite outrageous behaviour.

“The most serious aspect of this case is the effect on Mrs Bulman. She must have been devastated to discover what had been happening. No doubt, the thought of you going through her underwear drawer has caused her considerable distress.”

Andrew Turton, mitigating, said Gill was going through a troubled time in his marriage, and appeared to be getting depressed.

He told the court: “There is clearly distorted thinking in terms of going through the act of entering the house and doing what he did. He has a good understanding about how his neighbour feels.”

Gill, who sat through the entire hearing with his head bowed, was described by Mr Turton as a loving father and loving husband.

The lawyer added: “It is a disturbing case and an unusual case. It was not designed to cause distress because it was designed to carry out the nefarious activity in secret.

“He was acting out a fantasy in a situation that was secret. Obviously, he hoped never to be discovered.”