A HAPLESS burglar was snared when he fell in a garden pond after ransacking a home and police followed his wet footprints.
James Wanley, 39, scaled a garden fence after he was caught stripping copper wiring and other goods from a house by a neighbour.
But Wanley fell into next door’s four-feet deep garden pond, and made off sopping wet.
Police simply followed his trail of soggy footprints and arrested him.
Forensic experts matched the water on Wanley’s wet clothes with the water from the pond.
Christine Egerton, prosecuting, said: “He got out and ran away but, of course, he left wet footprints on his journey.
“The wet footprints were followed along the way.”
A short time later, police went to Ilkley Grove, Hartlepool, where Wanley lived.
They found wet footprints on the drive and a wet patch at the front door.
Despite his wet clothes being found in the washing machine, Wanley denied he had burgled the house.
As he was led away, he said to his housemates: “I was in all night, wasn’t I?”
Wanley, who has an “appalling” record for burglary, eventually admitted burglary on February 10, when the case got to court.
But he was spared an instant jail sentence after the judge heard he had started to tackle his heroin use described by his barrister as the “root cause” of his offending.
Miss Egerton said the house in Argyll Road, Hartlepool, had been left in a “complete mess” and was uninhabitable.
The owner had moved out several months earlier and planned to redevelop the three-bed semi.
She said in a victim impact statement: “I’ve worked hard all my life and for someone to come and break into my house and cause so much damage makes me feel sick.”
She estimated the cost of the damage to run into thousands of pounds.
Wanley, of Stockton Road, Hartlepool, was given a 12-month prison sentence that was suspended for two years, 150-hours unpaid work and a one month curfew between 8pm and 6am.
Chloe Hudson, mitigating, said Wanley had made a lot of progress since his last burglary in 2004 and deserved a chance.
She said: “At 39, he is at last dealing with the root cause of why he committed this burglary, that he is a heroin user.
Judge Gillian Matthews QC said: “The only thing that saves you today from a very lengthy period of custody, and I am satisfied you can do custody quite easily, is that you have shown a significant degree of improvement from your appalling record.
“I’m satisfied it’s more important for the community to be prevented from further offences by you rather than simply sending you to custody and coming out having exactly the same problems and committing more burglaries.”