An alcoholic attempting to reform “fell off the wagon” late last year and resorted to crime, a court heard.

Thomas Tams targeted so-called “affluent” areas of a city in a bid to fund his relapse into heavy drinking.

Durham Crown Court was told he had managed to stay off alcohol for some time after his previous conviction in 2020.

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But, following internal surgery last July, during which there were complications, he was left in a coma for several weeks.

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After his eventual release from hospital he struggled to deal with the situation and began drinking again, initially once or twice a day.

But, the court heard that as his drinking spiralled, he went on a five-week-long crime spree at the end of last year, into early January.

Christopher Bevan, prosecuting, said it began with the theft of items from a branch of Super Drug, on December 1, after which he was found to be in possession of a device to remove tags.

He also took items in a burglary at an antique shop and failed to gain entry in an attempt to break into similar premises, nearby, in Jesmond, Newcastle, on December 10.

Mr Bevan said Tams was found trying to hide between a metal gate and one of the antiques businesses.

He was in possession of a bag containing items stolen from one of the shops in the Jesmond antiques village.

Mr Bevan said the recovered goods have, as yet, to be valued but were returned to the premises undamaged.

Tams was arrested and admitted trying to take items to sell to enable him to buy more alcohol.

Mr Bevan said while on bail the defendant was subsequently challenged by a passing member of the public as he tried to break into a coffee shop in the early hours of the morning.

He made off down a nearby road where he was seen entering a hostel.

Mr Bevan told the court that the defendant’s spree was brought to a halt after his arrest following a break-in at a flat, again in the Jesmond area, on January 6.

Police were alerted after the resident, who was away from home at the time, received doorbell notification of two men in dark clothing entering the premises.

Mr Bevan said officers got to the premises at 9.10pm and found the lock and doorbell damaged.

Six bottles of wine, six pairs of cuff-links and two tie-clips, worth a total of £340, were taken.

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Tams was located two days later and his home was searched, during which a crow bar was found, but the stolen items were not recovered.

Mr Bevan said the home owner told police he no longer wants to keep any valuables there as it was the third such incident he suffered in a month.

The 35-year-old defendant, of Cartington Terrace, Heaton, admitted theft, going equipped for theft, two counts of burglary and two of attempted burglary.

His record was said to feature 28 convictions for 56 offences, between 2007 and 2020.

John Crawford, in mitigation, said the defendant had been alcohol-dependent which led to stomach problems for which he underwent an operation last July.

But he said there were “significant difficulties” which resulted in his admission to intensive care and left him in a coma for several weeks.

“As a result, he struggled to deal with the consequences and reverted to having one or two drinks to deal with the stress of the situation, but it spiralled to where it is now with these offences.

“Prior to that, he had been able to keep himself ‘dry’ for a not inconsiderable amount of time.”

Mr Crawford said the defendant has, “self-referred” himself due to his relapse into drinking.

“He tells me alcohol has ruined his life and he would like to lead a normal life to live longer.”

Mr Crawford added that upon his eventual release from prison, “the defendant will require greater probation support and interventions to help him deal with these factors that are clearly destroying his life.”

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 Judge James Adkin said Tams appeared to have travelled from his home in disguise to target “affluent areas” of Newcastle.

Imposing a total 34-month prison sentence, Judge Adkin told the defendant: “You have a long record for dishonesty and various disposals have failed to stem the tide of your offending.”

Judge Adkin said a condition of Tams’ release on licence at the half-way stage of the sentence might be to forbid him from entering the Jesmond area of the city.