A PREVIOUSLY convicted burglar was, “back at it”, having lapsed back into drug misuse, a court heard.

Christopher Eeles sneaked into a flat in Crook on a Sunday morning last month and was involved in a brief confrontation with the mother of two young children.

Durham Crown Court was told the woman thought she could hear traffic noise outside the property in High Street, Crook, shortly after 9am on April 11.

She checked downstairs, where the door was open, but no-one seemed to be present.

Victoria Lamballe, prosecuting, said she locked the door, but turned back and saw a stranger at the bottom of the stairs.

Asked who he was, he merely replied: “Sorry”.

The startled resident screamed and opened the door, asking again who he was, but the intruder apologised and left, getting into a car outside and driving away.

She rang her partner and discovered a lap-top computer had been moved in an upstairs bedroom, while pairs of trainers were missing.

Miss Lamballe said local cctv showed Eeles trying the unlocked door and entering, before emerging with trainers, then heading back inside.

He was later arrested and bank cards taken from the flat were found discarded in the garden of a property he was seen leaving.

Although he made denials when interviewed, Eeles, 35, of Wesley Street, Willington, admitted burglary at the crown court plea hearing.

The court heard he has 19 convictions for 46 offences, including taking part in a distraction burglary at the home of an 80-year-old woman in Stockton, in 2017, for which he received a 32-month prison sentence.

Tom Bennett, in mitigation, said since his release from that sentence Eeles, “made good progress”, and kept out of trouble until he committed the latest offence, last month.

“He took the unfortunate decision to relapse into drug misuse and can’t really remember what happened, but is appalled at his behaviour, especially when he hears children were in the house.

“Had it not been for his drug issues prior to the offence this would not have happened.”

Passing an 18-month prison sentence, Judge Ray Singh told Eeles: “It was submitted this was out of character, but that can’t be right.

“You got 32 months last time and now you are back at it again.”

Had Eeles not pleaded guilty the latest sentence would have been one of two years.