A BURGLAR caught mooching close to a house which had just been broken into told police: "I've got five grand down my pants."

Paul Rowntree had actually stolen £3,500 and a box of jewellery in the early morning raid in Seaham, County Durham, last October.

Teesside Crown Court heard yesterday that the 33-year-old had been freed from prison just a short while before the break-in.

Loading article content

His barrister, Alexander Burn, said he returned to taking drugs after his partner left him and his daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia.

"All he knew was how to burgle," Mr Burn said, after the court heard how Rowntree has a criminal record containing 116 offences.

Rowntree, who had been living in a hostel in Westmoreland Road, Newcastle, was jailed for two years after admitting burglary.

James Trott, 50, of South Terrace, Sunderland, also pleaded guilty to the charge for driving Rowntree to the scene at around 5am.

He was given a 15-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months, with a six-month curfew between 7pm and 7am.

The judge, Recorder Ian Atherton, said Trott was not aware of the purpose of the trip when the pair first set off from Sunderland.

When he realised what Rowntree was up to as he sneaked around, Trott said he would have waited for him and given him a lift back.

His barrister, Michael Wilkinson, said despite being separated from his wife, Trott still looks after he because she is severely disabled.