A window cleaner who took part in a series of distraction raids on shops has been jailed for four years.

John Wallis was part of a gang which targeted small businesses in towns throughout the country and took thousands of pounds of cash and goods.

At Newcastle Crown Court the 35-year-old, of Azalea Terrace South, Sunderland, admitted nine charges of burglary which happened over a nine month period between October 2007 and May 2008.

Prosecutor Neil Pallister told the court: "The defendant was part of a team of four or five.

"The Crown say the offences display a degree of planning and professionalism.

"In each offence Wallis was involved in distracting the shop keeper or assistant while another member of the group stole goods or cash."

THe court heard stores in Lincolnshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire were raided.

And on April 13 a Spar store in Doncaster was targeted, where £2,000 worth of cigarettes were stolen from a rear store room.

Mr Recorder William Lowe sentenced Wallis to three-and-a-half years behind bars.

THe court heard Wallis had served a previous sentence for similar offending but had found work cleaning windows after his release.

The judge told him: "The was series of professional burglaries, planned, and inolved obtaining a substantial quantity of cash and cigarettes from small businesses whcih have to struggle anyway to make a living."