A PROFESSIONAL burglar, who sends crime figures soaring when he is on the loose, is behind bars.

Jamie Marriott targets affluent areas of Darlington and travels further afield looking for rich pickings, a court heard.

After being freed from his last jail sentence, there was a "spike" in break-in and thefts, prosecutor Sue Jacobs said.

Mrs Jacobs told Teesside Crown Court that Marriott had left dozens of householders and motorists counting the cost.

The one-man crimewave was responsible for a catalogue offences between March and July to feed his drug habit.

He stole cars, snatched valuables from parked vehicles, broke into homes and swiped bikes during his spree.

A judge described the dry stone waller, 24, as "a professional burglar" as he jailed him for more than five years.

During the last two years, Marriott has been spared prison a number of times - with community orders and suspended sentences imposed instead.

In April, he was given a two-year suspended term because Judge Howard Crowson felt he could be an asset with his skills.

On Friday, the judge told him: "I'll be the first to admit I was wrong. For that, I am profoundly sorry."

He added: "People have tried very hard to ensure you did not go to prison. I am one of them.

"You are becoming, it seems to me, a professional burglar, if you're not already one . . . You have reoffended recently."

The court heard that Marriott tried to sell a stolen iPad on Facebook, then offered a top-of-the-range LandRover for £200.

In his most recent bout of break-ins, he toured Crook and nearby Hamsterley looking for grand properties where no-one was in.

Ben Pegman, mitigating, said he was desperate for money for drugs, after developing a cannabis habit at the age of ten.

Mr Pegman said Marriott graduated to cocaine and amphetamine at 13, and had recently started taking heroin and injecting amphetamine.

But he told Judge Crowson: "He has a trade. He is a dry stone waller. He is thought of very, very well in rural areas."

The judge replied: "He might have been once."

Marriott, of North Terrace, Willington Crook, was once given a lighter sentence when he offered to meet his victim.

Mr Pegman said he planned to write to his most recent targets to apologise - but the judge described his contrition as "crocodile tears".

He added: "It is the profound hope of everyone in this case that you rid yourself of your drug habit and be a useful member of society. Until that day, you are a risk to the rest of us."