Habitual house burglar Michael O’Keefe, 40, has a history of shinning up drainpipes, using ladders and climbing on roofs to break into his victims’ homes.
He burgled the home of an 83-year-old woman in the Park Road area of Hartlepool in February last year after she saw him prowling around in her back yard after 9pm and went to a neighbour’s.
Peter Sabiston, prosecuting at Teesside Crown Court, said: “She didn’t know the defendant and was somewhat anxious about what he was going to do.
"Fearing for her safety she went to a neighbour’s house.
"She returned to find the gate left open and a set of ladders now propped against the kitchen roof.
"A perspex panel had been removed giving access to a bedroom.”
O’Keefe’s DNA was found in blood on a ripped set of curtains and he was identified after being captured on local CCTV.
He claimed ignorance and surprise when first quizzed by police and then later suggested he had previously done work on the windows at the house.
He pleaded guilty to burglary before the case went to trial.
O’Keefe has 10 previous house burglaries on his record when he has climbed a drainpipe, used ladders or climbed onto the roof to enter and carry out untidy searches.
A number of the victims have been senior citizens.
Andrew Pickin, defending, said nothing was taken and O’Keefe was taking non-prescription tablets at the time after splitting from his girlfriend.
He said O’Keefe’s arrest and time in custody had been a “blessing in disguise” by allowing him to work with drug rehabilitation teams.
Mr Pickin added: “Now that he’s clean he tells me that he regrets his decisions and indeed is glad of this reprieve that he has been given.”
O’Keefe, of Catcote Road, Hartlepool, was jailed for 41 months.
Judge Jonathan Carroll said about the victim: "She was driven from her own home by your conduct.”
He added: “You have an established track record for dwelling house burglary. A number of the victims happened to be elderly.
"It’s what you do when you need your next fix.”