A SERIAL thief is now facing a minimum sentence of three years behind bars following his conviction as a third-strike burglar.

Dale Kay was caught in the act during a break-in at a shared student house in Durham, on November 29, last year.

He fled the terraced property, in Boyd Street, with a bottle of vodka and 50p taken after rummaging round rooms at the digs.

The under-graduate who came across him in the house gave chase and took a photograph of Kay as he made off in the distance.

Kay was subsequently arrested and charged with both the Boyd Street break-in, plus also another student digs burglary, in Durham, ten days earlier.

Four jackets, valued at more than £300, were taken by him from the house in May Street, on November 19.

Appearing at a plea hearing at Durham Crown Court by video link from the city’s nearby prison, last month, the 26-year-old defendant admitted the May Street burglary, but denied the Boyd Street offence.

A trial date for that allegation was set for the week beginning April 1.

But the case came back before the court yesterday, when Kay, formerly of Stanley, but now with a home address given as care/of The Changing Lives hostel, in Plawsworth, near Chester-le-Street, changed his plea to guilty.

Judge Jonathan Carroll told Kay: “You have now pleaded guilty and, as I understand it, you qualify for a mandatory minimum sentence.

“You know the starting point will be three years, but it may even be longer than that.”

The judge adjourned the sentencing hearing until tomorrow and remanded the defendant to remain in custody overnight.