Watch 'career thief' who broke into South Shields homes of two OAPs on same street in daylight 'burglary spree'

A ‘career thief’ who broke into the homes of two pensioners within an hour during a daylight ‘burglary spree’ has been put behind bars.

Lee Hepplewhite crept into the bedroom of an 80-year-old woman, through her unlocked front door, and took a computer monitor, while she was inside thehouse in South Shields, in March. Around an hour later, on the same afternoon, the 36-year-old serial criminal, who has 114 convictions, smashed a patio door panel and got into the kitchen of a retired couple on the same street. He caused £300 damage but did not manage to steal anything.

Prosecutor Neil Pallister told Newcastle Crown Court: "It was two houses in the same street within an hour or so. He had clearly gone out on a burglary spree."

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The court heard a resident who lives nearby had noticed Hepplewhite acting suspiciously in the area and took a video recording of him on a mobile phonethen contacted the police. The footage shows Hepplewhite creeping around in a lane before slipping through a gate and into a back yard or garden. Hepplewhite, of no fixed address, was identified from the footage and CCTV in the area.

Lee Hepplewhite.

The victim of the first raid said she has lived at her home for over two decades and has always felt safe. She added: "I was in the property at the time of the burglary. Thankfully I didn't hear the intruder, I dread to think what could have happened to me had I confronted him. Since the incident I lock the doors, front and back, to the point I feel like a prisoner in my own home."

The victim of the second raid, who was also at home at the time, said: "Myself and my husband are retired. We have worked hard to acquire our belongings. To think someone thinks they can enter without our permission to try and take items is sickening."

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Mr Recorder Mark McKone KC sentenced Hepplewhilte to three years and four months behind bars. The judge told him: "You are essentially a career thief. You steal in order to buy drugs to feed your addiction."

Hepplewhite told the court "I'm sorry" and "I'm appalled at myself" as the judge spoke to him.

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Jane Foley, defending, said: "He has struggled with drug addiction for many years. He's a very different man while he's in prison to that man he was when he was committing these offences."