A serial offender has been locked up after carrying out three shop burglaries in a fortnight to fund his drug habit.

Robert Thornton smashed his way into the Art Shop, Millets and B&M and stole goods from the stores in Darlington town centre during his latest crime spree.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the 39-year-old used a weapon to gain entry before grabbing items from the window displays and running away.

The drug addict targeted The Art Shop on Bondgate on June 23, when he smashed a window to steal toys worth £240 and was identified by blood left on the window.

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Darlington and Stockton Times: Millets, DarlingtonMillets, Darlington (Image: Graeme Hetherington)

Thornton then targeted Millets on July 3 and police were called in the early hours of the morning after a pane of glass was smashed and four North Face T-shirts found next to broken glass but after a stock check it was discovered that 21 items had been stolen worth £590.

He was identified that time when an officer recognised him from CCTV footage in the area.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Robert ThorntonRobert Thornton (Image: Durham Constabulary)

His third burglary took place five days later at the B&M store on High Northgate when two people were spotted on CCTV smashing a window and entering the store.

They stole razor blades, bottles of aftershave and perfume. Again, he was identified by a police officer who recognised his clothing.

The court heard how he has 39 convictions for 105 offences, including theft and non-dwelling burglaries.

Darlington and Stockton Times: B&M, DarlingtonB&M, Darlington (Image: Graeme Hetherington)

Thornton, of Brougham Street, Darlington, and formerly of Bouch Street, Shildon, pleaded guilty to all three burglaries.

Andrew Findlay, mitigating, said his client had a ‘long-running battle with drug addiction’ which was behind his offending and was on a drug treatment order for previous offending.

He added: “On this occasion he was under a community order, during that time he had managed to gain employment and was employed as a worktop cleaner with an agency.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The Art Shop, DarlingtonThe Art Shop, Darlington (Image: Graeme Hetherington)

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“That meant there would be periods of time when he would work and there would be periods of time he was not working and it was then that he fell back into drug taking and then drug addiction.”

Recorder David Brooke KC jailed Thornton up for a total of 21 months after the prolific burglar targeted the three town centre businesses.

He added: “You have a terrible dishonesty record which dates back to the 2000s and you carried out offences in dwellings and non-dwellings.

“Drugs are at the heart of it but you understand that is no mitigation.”