A PERSISTENT burglar took part in a house break-in just weeks after his release from a previous prison sentence for similar offending.

But the latest crime, committed during daytime in Sacriston, County Durham, last month, made Michael Johnson subject of the “three-strike” regulations for repeat burglars.

The 33-year-old offender, was, therefore, jailed for three years today (Friday February 22) after admitting the burglary.

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Durham Crown Court heard that among the haul taken from the property in Greystones, Daisy Hill, Sacriston, was a Mickey Mouse watch, considered to be of sentimental value of the owners.

They were on holiday when their unoccupied home was entered on January 16.

Lynsey Colling, prosecuting, told the court: “Their son was keeping an eye on the house in their absence.

“A neighbour heard the burglar alarm sounding, and saw two men running from the property.”

Ms Colling said the householder’s son was alerted and he went to his parents’ home to find the front door had been forced, while a bedroom appeared to have been “trashed”.

A mobile phone left at the scene enabled police to link Johnson to the crime.

When police went to his home, in Wordsworth Avenue, Easington Lane, his partner was wearing the distinctive stolen watch.

She told police she had found it in the garden, added Ms Colling.

David Callan, mitigating, said: “The defendant qualifies for the minimum three-year sentence under the three-strikes rule.

“The offence, itself, was carried out at an unoccupied house during the day.

“Only property of sentimental value was taken and it has since been returned.”

Mr Callan said Johnson is keen to now turn away from a life of crime.

“He wants to settle down with his wife, a nurse, and their 11-year-old child.

“He realises he cannot just keep going in and out of prison.”

Jailing him, Judge Penny Moreland told Johnson: “You were released in October of last year from a previous sentence for burglary.

“Yet, by January you were out burgling again.

“I accept you see the need to change the way you live your life.

“But, Parliament has laid down the minimum sentence which must apply in your case.”

Johnson was ordered to pay a victim surcharge, now mandatory for offences committed since early October, of £120 on his release from prison.