JEWELLERY and other valuables of sentimental value were stolen in a burglary spree to help meet the perpetrator’s expensive crack cocaine habit, a court was told.

Aaron David Child committed the spate of daytime break-ins targeting homes unoccupied at the time, often when the respective householders were on holiday.

Durham Crown Court heard that the unfortunate residents returned to find their homes ransacked in untidy searches by the unwanted intruder, who claimed to have little memory of the incidents because of his use of the stimulant drug.

The court was told most of the offences, in September and October last year, were in the Spennymoor area, where Child had moved to, at the time, to escape “negative influences” in his former home area of Horden. Two other offences were in Seaham.

Shaun Dryden, prosecuting, said one woman returned from holiday on September 27 to find her Spennymoor home covered in debris, with an alarm system ripped off the wall and the glass panel of a rear door smashed.

An estimated £42,000 worth of jewellery and old coins were missing.

Child was arrested on October 18 and was identified by a footwear impression on the bathroom floor which matched his training shoes.

Reading from a victim impact statement, Mr Dryden said the householder now suffers stress and anxiety at home and outlined the great loss as the coins had been passed down through generations of her family as heirlooms.

Other footwear lifts and blood dripped on bedding also provided forensic evidence linking with Child.

The 27-year-old defendant, of Rosa Street, Spennymoor, admitted three counts of burglary and one of handling stolen goods, but asked for a further six burglary offences to be considered.

Jennifer Coxon, mitigating, told the court: “He fully accepts responsibility for his offending behaviour and is extremely apologetic to all parties involved.”

She said he is even willing to go down the Restorative Justice route and apologise to his victims in person and to reassure them there was no personal targeting, as they were “opportunistic” crimes.

Imposing a prison sentence of three years and nine months, Judge James Adkin told Child: “£60,000-plus worth of stolen jewellery was, no doubt, converted into a relatively small amount of cash to fund your crack cocaine addiction, causing considerable pain and distress to those householders affected.”