A burglar who left a man terrified to sleep in his own home has been jailed for three years and four months.

Police caught long-time criminal Lee Anthony Thomas red-handed with stolen items as he left the flat he had just raided, York Crown Court heard.

Benjamin Whittingham, prosecuting, said the victim was inside the flat asleep at the time and unaware he had been burgled until officers woke him up and handed him back his property.

Thomas has 264 previous convictions, more than half of them for theft and dishonesty and including convictions for house burglary and drug dealing. He was on two suspended prison sentences at the time of the flat burglary and has committed many offences in and around York.

In 2015, he carried out a raid in central York during which he confronted a woman as she dressed in her bedroom when he should have been attending court.

Thomas, formerly of York, and now of Victoria Road, Scarborough, denied burglary and tried to deceive a jury with what Judge Simon Hickey called a “ludicrous” account of what he was doing in the flat’s back yard.

“You are a big powerful man, if that man (the flat’s occupant) had woken and confronted you, what would have happened?” the judge told Thomas after the jury returned their guilty verdict in under an hour.

The judge quoted the victim’s statement which said: “The fact that someone has entered my flat whilst I was asleep makes me feel extremely scared, scared to be in my own home ….. and left me worried to go to sleep.”

Thomas had pleaded guilty to stealing a £1,200 bike chained to a post the day before the flat raid. Mr Whittingham said police caught him within hours.

He was jailed for three years and four months including three months previously suspended.

The jury was not told that police were in the Scarborough flat’s area shortly before 8pm on September 28 because a woman had dialled 999 to report a man trying car doors.

They heard evidence an officer spotted Thomas behind the flat carrying the victim’s TV remote and mobile phone and arrested him on suspicion of burglary.

The police officer and a colleague woke the victim, who had left his back door insecure so his cat could get in and out. They found one of Thomas’ earphones on the floor near the back door. It had Thomas’ DNA on it and he had the other matching earphone on him when arrested.

The victim told police the two stolen items had been in different rooms.

Thomas gave differing accounts to the police officer who arrested him, to the officer who interviewed him and in the witness box.

He denied going into the flat or stealing the items. He claimed he had gone to the back door to see if the flat occupant wanted to sell a television which the burglar said he had found in the back yard.

Following the verdict, his barrister Rhianydd Clement said he had a doorman’s licence and would get a job at the end of his sentence.

He had health problems including anxiety, depression, and paranoia, which would get worse in prison, and osteoporosis.