A BURGLAR who managed to crawl through a cat flap to grab the back door key has been jailed for 14 months.

Matthew Cotterell was behind a spate of break-ins across Royal Wootton Bassett, stealing from garages and a car over a three-week period.

The 22-year-old was living rough in a den in the woods after falling out with the mother of his child and was stealing to support himself.

The thief, who was on a suspended sentence at the time of the break in, has been told the offences are so serious he must serve a jail term.

Colin Meeke, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court a couple were asleep on the night of September 17 when the wife heard a tapping noise downstairs.

“She got up and made a brief investigation. She thought it was one of the cats trying to get through the cat flap.” he said.

“In fact, what it almost certainly was, was the defendant reaching in through the cat flap and removing the keys.”

When they got up the following morning her husband, who is in the RAF, went to put on his uniform only to find it had been stolen from downstairs.

His wife’s handbag and mobile phone were also missing, as was the back door key from the house on Home Ground.

Mr Meeke said a man was sleeping rough in woodland near their house and a search of a den there uncovered the missing bag.

They then found out that the phone had been taken to Cash Generator in Swindon by Cotterell, who was arrested.

After admitting the offences, he then took the police on a drive around of the town pointing out other offences he committed.

On August 28 he burgled a garage on Longleaze, stole from a car in Arran Close on September 9, then burgled another garage on Longleaze and one on Blackthorn Close on September 16.

Cotterell, of no fixed abode, admitted burglary and asked for four other matters to be taken into consideration.

The court heard he was on a suspended sentence imposed for theft at the time of the break-ins.

Tony Bignall, defending, said his client had recently become reconciled with his mother after she asked him to leave home when he was 18.

All of his offending has been since 2009 and the latest spate was to raise money for living, as he was sleeping rough.

He said he had experienced a month inside on remand and was sporting a black eye after an unprovoked attack in prison.

Jailing him Judge Douglas Field said “The facts relating to the charge of burglary are serious because the occupants of that house were upstairs asleep when you went in to steal a considerable amount of stuff from them.

“I also take into account you are a young man: you had hit rock bottom. You were living rough, your relationship with the mother of your son had broken down.

“You were offending to live from day to day.”