A PROLIFIC burglar has been found dead at a jail recently described as a “powder keg waiting to explode”.

Stephen Lawrence Hodgson died at Stockton’s Holme House prison on Saturday, the Ministry of Justice confirmed.

The 38-year-old, previously of Romford Road, Stockton, was jailed for two years, four months last December after he admitted breaking into four licensed premises in the space of just a few hours to get money for drugs.

He was linked to raids or attempted burglaries at the Elm Tree Social Club in Stockton, the Sutton Arms in nearby Elton Village, the Blue Bell Inn in Yarm, and The Eagle in Eaglescliffe, by CCTV footage and DNA material he had left behind.

It recently emerged that one in six prison officers at Holme House, a category B large local prison which houses up to 1,200 prisoners, were on the sick, amid claims that staff shortages were resulting in inmates being locked up for most of the day.

There has also been huge concern expressed about the prevalence of psychoactive substance Spice, which is smoked by users and can be inadvertently inhaled by officers.

Last month the Prison Officers Association said a £200,000 haul of the drug was discovered in Weetabix and cappuccino packets smuggled into cells in Holme House.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “HMP Holme House prisoner Stephen Lawrence Hodgson died in custody on Saturday.

“As with all deaths in custody there will be an independent investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.”

Dad-of-one Hodgson, who had more than 70 crimes on his record, was arrested by police after a police chase when he was spotted in his car in Stockton eight days after the raids on May 30 last year.

He fled when officers tried to speak to him and raced through a red light, also overtaking cars on the wrong side of the road.

Hodgson, who also admitted dangerous driving, was told by Judge Sean Morris at Teesside Crown Court that he had carried out a “short lived mini campaign of pub raiding all in one day” and had also driven like a lunatic.