A BURGLAR returned to his old habit of distraction crime, targeting unsuspecting householders, after lapsing back into drug misuse.

Paul Thomas Strong took money from the homes of two people who he chatted with at the doorstep, having called inquiring about property to rent in the area.

He stole £40 from the purse of a woman in Hall Close, Seaham, on February 28, after asking her for a drink of water, while £30 was taken from the home of a man in Strangford Road, when Strong claimed he could smell burning in another room, on March 13.

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Durham Crown Court heard that he gave the name ‘Dave’ to the victim of the first incident and told the man at the house in Strangford Road he was called ‘Paul’.

In each case he fled after taking the money, having spent a length of time at both properties.

Peter Sabiston, prosecuting, said police investigating both crimes arrested 32-year-old Strong after finding him hiding in the bedroom of his home in Hesledon Walk, Murton, nine days later.

Mr Sabiston said he initially made “nonsensical” claims to be running errands for both householders, but, at the court plea hearing, he admitted two counts of burglary.

Martin Scarborough, mitigating, said Strong was fully aware he had put himself at risk of a mandatory three-year prison sentence as a three-strike burglar.

Mr Scarborough said it was a return to Strong’s former “modus operandi” of distraction burglary, committed during periods of drugs misuse.

Jailing him for three years, Judge Neil Clark said they were “mean and unpleasant” crimes on people whose trust he appeared to have gained.