A SERIAL burglar committed a serious crime spree while on licence after his release from his previous prison sentence, a court heard.

John Peter James carried out three further break-ins, including a student flat burglary, and also robbed a man at knifepoint after putting him through a drug-fuelled ordeal at a relative’s home.

Durham Crown Court was told all took place between October 17 and 22, last year.

It began after a man who knew James’ girlfriend, but who did not know the defendant, bumped into him in a Langley Moor pub.

Robin Turton, prosecuting, said James “badgered” him into giving him a lift.

The reluctant “driver” picked up James the next day and was told to take him to an address in Sacriston.

James went into the kitchen and began smoking a large amount of crack cocaine with five associates, before challenging his unwitting chauffeur about sleeping with his girlfriend.

Egged on by the others, he threatened to stab him with a knife and burn him alive unless he made an admission.

He also took the man’s phone and car keys after being dropped at home, and later threatened him if he were to report it to police.

Mr Turton said police were informed but, before his arrest on October 23, James broke into a Durham restaurant, taking £180 worth of drink and causing £600-worth of damage, and stole about £2,500 of float and takings in a sneak break-in at a stock room of a Coxhoe newsagent.

He also took a wallet in a student flat burglary in Durham, despite being confronted as he left.

James made fraudulent use of bank cards from the wallet, for items amounting to £78, before they were 'stopped' by the bank.

The 40-year-old defendant, formerly of Woodland Crescent, Kelloe, admitted robbery, witness intimidation, three counts of burglary and two of fraud.

His 94 previous convictions include a number for burglary, theft and assault.

David Lamb, for James, said the four-strikes burglar was recalled to prison after his arrest and has been in custody since late October, amid the constraints of the Covid-restricted regime.

Judge Ray Singh said the terrifying robbery was the most serious of the spate of offences in October, aggravated by James’ prolific record.

He imposed a total prison sentence of eight years and eight months and made James subject of an indefinite restraining order, forbidding contact or approaches to the robbery victim.