A BURGLAR is behind bars after being caught on camera breaking into a house to steal the boiler and copper piping.

Police installed the CCTV system and alarms after a spate of scrap thefts from unoccupied properties in Hartlepool.

One camera captured John Chapman and two teenagers searching rooms and moving things about, a court heard TODAY (Monday, September 9).

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The intruders - who damaged the boiler and pipes - were identified from pictures from the secretly-installed equipment.

Teesside Crown Court heard how Chapman had two previous convictions for almost identical offences at empty houses.

Chapman was jailed for one year and eight months by Judge Gillian Matthews, QC, after he admitted the August 7 burglary.

Martin Scarborough, mitigating, told the judge: "It is clear from his record that he is a scrapper."

Chapman was was released from prison for an attempted theft from a closed-down school just days before his latest crime.

Mr Scarborough said he was not receiving benefits after being freed, and needed money to fund his cannabis habit.

Judge Matthews told Chapman: "You are a menace to the public. You have got a lot of previous convictions. You are certainly persistent."

The other two intruders will be dealt with by magistrates after also pleading guilty to a charge of burglary.

Mr Scarborough said: "The police had put in CCTV, so when they go in, their faces are snapped, and it is clear it is them.

"Mr Chapman's motivation for this offence, and no doubt for the other scrap thefts on his record, have been his use of drugs."