A MAN dubbed a “one-man crime wave” during a six-week countywide spate of offending is starting a 66-month prison sentence.

Michael Collier was involved in at least ten offences, many targeting small shop premises, across County Durham, between September 24 and November 3.

Durham Crown Court heard it included a knifepoint robbery at a Spar shop in Wolsingham, “till grabs” at Tesco Extra in Front Street, Sacriston, and at another branch of Spar, in Carrville, break-ins at Admiral Casino and at a house in Arcadia Avenue, both in Chester-le-Street, plus four thefts, and two offences of knife possession.

Chris Wood, prosecuting, said a masked Collier was carrying a knife when he approached an assistant demanding money in the Spar branch in Wolsingham, at 8.20am, on October 28.

Despite the female staff member’s attempts to push him away, he managed to prise open the till drawer and take £100, before fleeing the Market Place premises and escaping in a waiting Citroen C1, taken from outside the owner’s home in Croxdale earlier that day, driven by an accomplice.

In one of the till grabs, at Tesco Extra, he took about £1,800 after approaching the counter purporting to be about to buy a can of soft drink.

Later that afternoon he used a similar method to take an unknown amount from the Spar shop in High Street, Carrville.

He was finally arrested the following day, November 3, when he was stopped by police in Seventh Avenue, Chester-le-Street, while carrying a lock knife.

Another knife and a hammer, used in two of the other crimes, were recovered when the abandoned Citroen car was recovered by police.

Collier, 40, of Eighth Avenue, Chester-le-Street, admitted ten charges arising from the spree, including allowing himself to be carried in a stolen vehicle.

Liam O’Brien, mitigating, said Collier comes from an otherwise law-abiding family, and has realised that at 40 he faces going through life without achieving anything of note.

“The penny seems to have dropped that this is no life to lead.”

Mr O’Brien said his drug addiction and the need to pay for his habit, were behind his crimes.

Passing a five year and six-month prison sentence, Judge James Adkin told Collier: “Between September 24 and November 3 you were, in essence, a one-man crime wave.”

Detective Constable Andy Denham, of South Durham CID, said: “The crimes that Michael Collier committed were abhorrent.

“He used violence and targeted lone females in many of the crimes.

“The events will affect each of the victims and their families for the rest of their lives.

“He had no thought for anyone and would do anything to get what he needed. The guilty pleas and sentence are welcomed as now the victims of these cases will not have to re-live these terrifying experiences giving evidence in a trial.

“I am relieved that the sentence and his imprisonment mean that these women affected by his violent robberies can go to work free from the fear of his returning to terrorise them again.

“I want to thank the local communities in each of the locations who assisted and came together to support the investigation by providing good quality CCTV which was crucial in this case. The numerous charges were the result of police response, neighbourhood, CSI and CID teams from across the county working together effectively and positively.”