A SERIAL burglar who accidentally left his keys in his victim’s house after stealing her purse and bank cards has been jailed.

Brian Normanton snuck into the woman's home and tried to withdraw money with the stolen bank cards but was tracked down by police after accidentally dropping his keys during the burglary last July.

Teesside Crown Court heard earlier the same day the 38-year-old stole a man’s £200 bike and sold it onto a third party after he spotted it locked outside a gym in Hartlepool.

Shouting from the dock, Normanton apologised for his actions and said he was “in a dark place” but Judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC refused to accept his excuses and handed him two years and three months in prison.

Jenny Haigh, prosecuting, said: “The complainant left his bike worth £200 locked and secured outside the gym where he went inside for a workout. Coming out two hours later, he realised the bike and £30 lock had been stolen.

“CCTV showed the defendant walking past and cycle away. He later accepted he sold the bike on knowing it was stolen. The man said the bike was bought for him by his father and he used it so he didn’t rely on family members for lifts.

“The same day a woman returned to her home in Hartlepool with friends for drinks and a meal. They came in but unfortunately didn’t lock the door. Her bag was on the stairs near the door and contained her purse, cash, bank cards and driving licence.”

She added that one of the woman’s friends spotted Normanton lingering around the property and when confronted by the homeowner he claimed he had turned up to the wrong house. But the woman soon realised the door was open and the contents of her bag had disappeared.

It was later discovered Normanton accidentally dropped his keys in the victim’s house during the burglary and went on to use her bank card to withdraw £28 at a wine store.

Quoting the woman, Ms Haigh said: “I was frightened to stay at home alone and a friend had to stay with me. No person has the right to use my accounts without my authorisation. I feel unsafe and would be afraid to see him again.”

She added Normanton, who entered the dock with his hands full of luggage, has 31 previous convictions and the offence was his seventh burglary since 1998.

But the court heard he “didn’t have a clue” what he was doing and was “in a dark place” because his former partner was dying from cancer and he was concerned for the welfare of their child.

During the hearing, the 38-year-old interrupted proceedings to shout out an apology and say he was "in a dark place".

But addressing Normanton, Judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC said: “You are no stranger to the court or to burglary. You have been a burglar since 1998. You have 31 convictions for more than 60 offences. This is your seventh burglary and there must be exceptional circumstances for this not to cross the custodial threshold.

“As a burglar you must have some idea how it feels to have an intruder in your home. You have made an effort to change but these are not exceptional circumstances.”

Normanton, of Cornwall Street, Hartlepool, was handed two years and three months in prison after pleading guilty to theft, burglary and fraud.