Jail for burglar spotted stealing house fittings

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A BURGLAR has been jailed after he was photographed with his loot by a workman who was called to repair the damage he left behind.

Ian Houston had a key to his old flat when he went in and stole the radiators, boiler and copper fixtures.

He was outside the Hartlepool building with two of the radiators the next day when a quick-witted maintenance engineer spotted him and snatched a photograph.

Houston, who was with a woman, asked him what he was doing, and the engineer said he was just taking a snap of the wall behind them, Teesside Crown Court was told.

The 25-year-old left the scene, but the police were called and they detained him, said prosecutor Harry Hadfield.

Houston used to rent the flat on Southgate, Hartlepool, and in August last year he moved into another with his girlfriend.

Police received a report of a burglary on February 26, and it emerged that Houston had caused £80 damage to the front door to cover up the fact that he had let himself in using a key from his previous tenancy.

The radiators and copper were worth £1,800 and the landlords had to pay £2,000 to re-instate them.

Houston told police he went in with others on February 25 to get the property he had arranged to sell for scrap. He admitted that he had removed a radiator on February 27 to sell for scrap.

He had two previous convictions for house burglary for which he served prison sentences, said Mr Hadfield.

Paul Cleasby, mitigating, said there were exceptional circumstances under which Houston could avoid the minimum three-year jail sentence as a three-strikes’ burglar.

He knew that the flat was unoccupied, and he was mature enough to benefit from more positive solutions.

Judge Howard Crowson said he accepted it would be unjust to impose the three-year minimum jail and said: “A man of your record cannot expect the sentence to be suspended.

“If you commit another burglary you will qualify for a three-year term.”

Houston, of The Front, Seaton Carew, was jailed for 14 months after he pleaded guilty to burglary and theft.