A THREE-STRIKES burglar is back behind bars after wandering into a property at 3am and being confronted by a housebuilder.

Ricky Milner was told to expect a starting point of a three-year sentence for his next burglary after receiving a community order, for stealing copper pipe and a boiler from a rented property, in Murton, in 2011.

Durham Crown Court heard that having not committed further domestic break-ins for almost ten years, Milner succumbed to temptation earlier this month.

He entered a house in Murton where the lights were on and a door was unlocked, in the early hours of March 8.

Chris Baker, prosecuting, said a woman was awoken by noise at 3am and came down to find Milner in her living room holding a coat belonging to her partner.

She asked who he was and Milner handed her the coat before leaving by the door.

The woman, who suffers anxiety causing sleeping difficulty, thought she recognised him and police were informed, leading to his arrest.

He initially denied responsibility when interviewed by police, but, appearing at a plea hearing, the 37-year-old defendant, of James Street North, in Murton, admitted burglary with intent to steal, his fourth domestic break-in.

The court was told it was the 47th offence on his record, which includes three previous dwelling burglaries and other commercial break-ins.

Jane Waugh, in mitigation, said Milner’s last burglary conviction at court was in 2012 for which a non-custodial sentence was passed, although he has served previous prison sentences.

She said on the night of the latest offence the defendant would say his drink was spiked, having been giving recent clean drug tests.

“He maintains he entered that property by mistake, the lights being on and the door open, and he did pick up the jacket.

“But he put it back down again and so he didn’t take anything.

“He accepts, however, by his plea that he did pick up the jacket.”

Miss Waugh said Milner has worked as a landscaper, block paver and roofer in the past and hoped to find such work after the pandemic.

Judge Singh told Milner: “I’m afraid you have a dreadful record for a variety of offences, and while your offending may have slowed down, the law is that you must receive a three-year sentence as this is the fourth dwelling house burglary you have committed.

“It must have been fairly frightening circumstances for that woman who hears a noise and sees a stranger holding her partner’s jacket.

“There was a conversation and you did leave without taking anything.”

The judge complied with a pledge to deduct 20-per cent from the three-year sentence, in recognition of Milner's guilty plea, taking the jail term to 876 days, almost two years and five months.