AN “habitual burglar” went on a spree of commercial break-ins in a town within a short period on the same night, a court heard.

John Kinsella was described as, “mooching about” looking for properties and cars to enter in Ferryhill, on the night of October 12, not long after his release on licence from a 63-month prison sentence, also for burglary.

Durham Crown Court heard he broke into a restaurant, a curiosity shop and a garage, while he was also seen on CCTV trying to open the doors of parked cars.

Appearing at a plea hearing via video link from nearby Durham Prison, the 52-year-old defendant, of Bessemer Street, Ferryhill, admitted three counts of burglary and two of vehicle interference.

Peter Sabiston, prosecuting, said the owner of La Mensa, an Italian restaurant, in Main Street, returned from the school run the following morning to discover the cash register and contents were missing, while a set of ladders was found propped against a flat roof at the rear of the premises, near to the family living quarters.

A check of CCTV coverage showed a male figure had been inside the restaurant for about ten minutes overnight, taking the till, which was recovered intact, as well as the staff tip money.

As a result of the break-in the owner, who felt “sick and violated” at the crime, has installed a new alarm system and more CCTV cameras, at a cost to the business.

Mr Sabiston said a local police officer recognised Kinsella as the perpetrator after viewing the cctv footage.

It emerged he had also broken into a garage in Kensington Gardens, where a number of items were found to have been moved, but it appears the intruder left empty-handed, leaving a gate open.

A check on nearby cctv revealed a figure wearing a long coat trying the doors of cars parked nearby.

The owner of a curiosity shop in Market Street also reported a break-in that night, with some cosmetic jewellery and about £20 to £30 taken.

Mr Sabiston told the court Kinsella has, “a substantial” criminal record, and at the time of the spree he was subject of licence supervision following his release from a previous prison sentence.

Stephen Hamill, for Kinsella, said since his arrest for the offences he has been recalled to prison to serve the remaining 23 months of his previous sentence, with an earliest release date of October 2023.

Mr Hamill said the spate of offending stems from the defendant’s drug addiction, which he said is now “under control” helped by a methadone script.

Judge Ray Singh said while all his latest burglaries were not house break-ins, “they came as close as possible to being domestic properties”.

Imposing a further nine-month prison sentence, he told Kinsella: “You are an individual who is an habitual burglar and nothing the courts can do is going to stop you.

“This was a criminal spree that night, walking up and down a back lane, trying door handles and looking for properties to enter, intending to steal.”

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