AN out of work engineer committed a burglary spree to help pay for a cocaine habit , a court was told.

Mark Cousins targeted unoccupied holiday homes in day-time break-ins, stealing valuable items in September and October, even returning to strike at one property for a second time, six days after the original offence

Durham Crown Court heard he took a mobile phone, lap-top computer and head phones from a Lanchester cottage, on September 24.

Jonathan Harley, prosecuting, said Cousins took another lap-top after smashing a window to enter a New Brancepeth lodge, on October 2.

Following repairs, he struck again via the same point of entry, taking a further computer, on October 8.

Mr Harley said the same white Vauxhall Mokka, which police traced to Cousins, was seen on cctv at the time of both offences.

Cousins’ final burglary was at a cottage in Esh Winning, on October 23, when he took an estimated £1,500-worth of jewellery, some of high sentimental value to the owners.

Mr Harley said some stolen items were recovered, but the most cherished pieces were not, causing the owners both trauma and expense.

Footprint lifts from two crime scenes and the cctv evidence led to his arrest, on October 25, when he was also in possession of cocaine.

Cousins, 29, of Davis Crescent, Langley Park, admitted four counts of burglary and one of possessing cocaine.

Lewis Kerr, mitigating, said there was a large gap in Cousins’ offending as he worked for many years as a skilled engineer, until he found himself out of work recently, having to meet family financial commitments as well as fund his cocaine habit.

Mr Kerr said, ironically, on the day of his arrest a new job opportunity emerged.

He added that Cousins does feel remorse and helped police to recover a number of stolen items, while he is prepared to meet the victims to apologise as part of the restorative justice scheme.

Imposing a 32-month prison sentence, Recorder Peter Makepeace QC said although they were holiday homes the owners still felt a sense of violation at the burglaries.