A serial burglar has been jailed after he was caught red-handed with the loot just five hours after raiding a family home.

Dominic Smith was traced by the ‘find my phone’ app on the victim’s stolen mobile and found asleep at a friend’s house in Exmouth with it on the floor beside him.

Smith has almost 60 previous convictions including seven domestic burglaries and was liable for a mandatory sentence of at least three years under the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule.

He raided the cottage in Church Street, Lympstone, at around 6am on May 1 this year before using a mountain bike which he stole from outside a pub in the village to cycle back to Exmouth.

He went seen on CCTV leaving Lympstone at 6.05am on the stolen lime green Muddy Fox bike and went straight to the Littleham Coop shop where he was filmed trying to use three of the stolen cards to withdraw cash unsuccessfully at 6.28am.

He was clearly identifiable on the Coop CCTV because of his distinctive bird's nest hair and was wearing exactly the same clothes as the man seen cycling out of Lympstone.

The family who lived in the cottage got up to discover the burglary later that morning and were able to use the app on one of three stolen mobiles to trace Smith to Summer Close in Exmouth.

Police went there at 11am and found him asleep on a sofa, still wearing the same clothes. The three phones were on the floor beside him and a wallet, 11 stolen bank cards and a silver pocket watch which was taken in the raid were all found in his pockets.

The stolen bike had been left outside the house but was not seized by police because it had not been reported missing and the CCTV from the Central Stores and the Swan Inn at Lympstone had not been accessed.

He claimed that another man who was asleep on another sofa in the house had carried out the burglary and then asked him to go out and try to use the bank cards. He told the jury he had borrowed the jacket for the trip but had not been wearing it earlier.

Smith, aged 43, formerly of Lympstone but now homeless, denied burglary but was found guilty by a jury at Exeter Crown Court. He was jailed for three years and four months by Recorder Mr Malcolm Galloway.

He told him: “You have numerous previous convictions for burglary. This offence has had an effect on the victim. She says she has never been burgled before and it is a very scary feeling.

“When she realised you had broken in, she started shaking with upset at the thought someone had come into her property while she was sleeping. She felt worried and vulnerable but it made her feel better that police managed to track someone down so quickly.

“Your previous convictions are obviously a serious and substantial aggravating feature. I’m afraid I can see no mitigation in this case.”

Mr Paul Grumbar, defending, said Smith is caught in a cycle of offending in which he serves prison sentences, is released homeless and still addicted to drugs, resulting in a chaotic lifestyle and reoffending.

He said: “Passing a Draconian sentence in this case would be a complete waste of time and money.”