A man who used a distraction tactics to steal from the home of elderly women is back behind bars after a lengthy lapse in offending.

Kevin Spence repeatedly called at the home shared by the 75-year-old woman and her older sister, in Peterlee, seeking odd job work in August this year.

Durham Crown Court heard this followed her paying him £30 to cut her back lawn with her strimmer, two or three weeks earlier.

Martin Towers, prosecuting said the woman was to tell police that Spence returned over following days offering to paint her fence, even turning up with tins of paint on one visit and offering her some flowers.

The Northern Echo: Kevin Spence went ten years without offending before lapsing back into drug misuse, court told

The householder turned down those requests saying she could not afford it and she told Spence when she wanted it doing, she would ask a relative.

He made further calls offering to paint the fence and when he knocked on August 15 he said he was waiting for a friend bringing something over and he asked for a drink of water.

Read more: Ferryhill woman sneaked into man's home and demanded cash

Mr Towers said Spence was given a drink and he asked for a second glass of water as well as asking to borrow a cigarette, before leaving.

On his return a few minutes later he knocked at the front door, but told the women he believed he had lost his phone earlier in her garden.

While one of the women was preparing their lunch, her sister went out the back door to look in the garden but found nothing.

Spence, meanwhile came in the front door and was in the kitchen where he told the women it was “okay” as he had found his phone, before rushing out of the property.

One of the sisters soon realised her own phone was missing from the table, as well as seven £1 coins.

Mr Towers said the victim explained she needed the phone to summon medical assistance as both she and her sister had medical conditions from which they suffered.

The woman living at the house, who was unable to leave home due to her ailments, questioned why anyone would do such a thing to her, while her sister said it had made her now nervous to answer the door.

When he was later arrested, Spence said he never crossed the threshold of the house and claimed he had the woman’s phone, “by mistake” as she handed it to him in a bag.

But Mr Towers said he was on his way back home with the phone at the point he was arrested.

A neighbour told police she saw Spence leaving by the front door with the mobile phone, which was not in a bag.

The 42-year-old defendant, of Ilchester Street, Seaham, admitted a charge of burglary.

Mr Towers told the court it made the defendant a third-strike domestic burglar, with previous convictions for house break-ins, in 2001 and 2003.

The court heard he has 17 past convictions for 26 past offences, but the last of those was in 2013.

Jennifer Coxon, in mitigation, said the passage in time since the defendant’s previous offending was down to him going drug-free for almost a decade.

But she said he was “disappointed in himself” for putting himself in the position he now finds he’s in, facing a prison sentence as a three-strike house burglar.

“He was doing well and, while unable to work, he was doing odd jobs here and there and he remained drug and offence-free.”

Miss Coxon said following a split with his partner, Spence found himself “isolated” and it led to a relapse into drug misuse.

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He found himself in debt after a while and was seeking odd job work to pay for his drug use.

Miss Coxon said: “He can only apologise for his behaviour that day.

"It was down to his need to offend due to obtain drugs while being under the influence of drugs.

“There are demons which have resulted in him falling back into those old habits, which need to be addressed.”

She urged Recorder Jonathan Sandiford KC to take an exceptional course and offer the defendant the opportunity to undergo a drug rehabilitation programme.

But Recorder Sandiford said the targeting of two elderly, vulnerable sisters, taking the mobile phone on which they relied to summon medical assistance, using “distraction tactics” having built up a “degree of trust”, could only be described as, “callous”.

He told the defendant: “You made several attempts to distract yourself into their property and I have no doubt your purpose was to obtain money for drugs that you were using at that time.”

Recorder Sandiford said it was also aggravated by both Spence's previous convictions, despite the ten-year lapse in offending, and the fact he was under the influence of drugs at the time.

Read next:

Home of 'vulnerable' man targeted by Hartlepool burglar and accomplice

Man branded 'wicked' after he preyed on frail pensioner in her Horden home

Order forbids burglar from touting door-to-door for work

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The Recorder passed a three-year minimum term for third-strike burglars but reduced it by 20-per cent to reflect the defendant’s guilty plea.

It takes the sentence to one of 876 days, just under two years and five months.

Spence will also be subject to a five-year restraining order prohibiting him from contacting or approaching the two elderly sisters.