A CAREER burglar from Kidderminster who broke into a house on Christmas Eve and stole presents from under the tree has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Drug addict Darren Lostitch, 38, has spent 15 years of his adult life behind bars and was a "three-strike" house burglar facing a mandatory jail sentence after his raids in the early hours of December 24 last year, Worcester Crown Court was told.

Lostitch, of Lion Street, Kidderminster, broke into a house in Bernie Crossland Walk, Kidderminster, in the early hours and took a Nintendo DS, Playstation games and presents from under the tree, Timothy Sapwell, prosecuting, told the court. Some Christmas wrapping paper was later found discarded in an old air raid shelter in the garden of a nearby house.

Lostitch also tried to break into a house in Chester Road South nearby by breaking a window. Police found footprints and traced them to Lostitch, who claimed he had been at home with his girlfriend. His trainers were taken and there was evidence they had been damaged to try and disguise the distinctive pattern but they were found to be a match. He was also spotted when he tried to sell the games at Cash Converters.

Lostitch pleaded guilty to burglary and attempted burglary.

Andrew Davidson, defending, said Lostitch had been a burglar since 1993. He had 15 convictions for 28 offences and had spent stretches in prison totalling up to 15 years.

"It's likely he is now institutionalised," Mr Davidson told the court. "The reason for his offending is drugs. He is an addict. He goes into jail and gets clean but when he comes out he has no job and nowhere else to go so he falls back in with other drug users."

Mr Davidson said he had been taking courses in prison and now wanted to get out and get a job to lead a normal life.

Recorder Anthony Lowe said Lostitch had been given sentences of increasing length which, at least, gave people a rest from him breaking into their homes.

"You are caught in a never-ending cycle of drug addiction," he told him. "It's just going to get worse unless you do something about it."

He gave Lostitch four-and-a-half years concurrent on each charge.