Graham Liddle fished car and house keys through the letterbox of a family home in the dead of night, stealing an Audi that was parked on the driveway of a property in Strathmore Square, Sunderland.
But the 50-year-old’s downfall came when alert police spotted the ‘well-known’ offender flicking a cigarette butt into the garden of a neighbouring property.
It was only a matter of time before officers found the incriminating item – which was sent off for forensic examination and later came back as a DNA match for Liddle.
The stolen Audi was found two miles away on Mortimer Street in Pallion.
Liddle, of Downham Court, South Shields, was subsequently arrested and has now been convicted after admitting burglary, theft of a motor vehicle, driving without a licence and having no insurance when he appeared at Newcastle Crown Court on October 2.
He is due to be sentenced on Friday, November 13.
Pc Shaun Smith, of Northumbria Police’s Southern Burglary Team, said: “Liddle is somebody who is well-known to police and has shown a constant disregard for both the law and his community.
“His latest crime saw him fish a set of keys from through the letterbox while the occupants were asleep upstairs. He then was caught on CCTV getting into the car and nonchalantly driving away.
“Unfortunately for him, his deception was laid bare after officers found a small cigarette butt that had been discarded in a garden near the scene.
"That item came back as a forensic match and can be used to prove his guilt in court.
“This was a fantastic outcome - some brilliant police work led to Liddle’s conviction, with the defendant pleading guilty to all offences with the weight of evidence against him overwhelming.
“We make no apology for our robust approach towards burglars and thieves – and we will continue to do all we can to make sure these offenders are caught and put before the courts.”
If you see anything suspicious in the community, please contact police at 101 or via the ‘Tell us Something’ page of the force’s website.