A MAN has been jailed for breaking into the home of a retired fireman in Royton and making off with his car.

Manchester Minshull Street heard yesterday prolific thief Nicholas Cooper targeted the property in July last year and was caught by the police in the stolen Volvo days later.

When apprehended he told officers he had been a passenger in the car in the back seat, but these were found to all contain children’s seats.

The 28-year-old appeared in court after confessing to burglary and theft of the car. He also admitted handling stolen goods after the Volvo was returned to the owner who found it had items taken from another burglary inside.

Prosecutor William Donnelly told the court the homeowner woke up to find the car and keys gone.

Neighbours reported hearing a “screeching sound” but he got no further in finding out what happened.

Two days later just beyond midnight officers spotted the car with false plates in the centre of Rochdale and followed it into a side street where Cooper got out.

Mr Donnelly said: “After a struggle he was detained. He claimed initially he hadn’t been driving, he had been a rear side passenger.

“The Volvo was fitted with rear children’s seats which would have been nigh on impossible for the defendant to have been in.”

He revealed the consequences of the theft for the owner of the Royton home. He said: “It had left him feeling physically sick. He was a retired fireman so used to dealing with trauma, he was unable to eat or drink.

“At the time his wife was in hospital, this was another thing he did not need.”

When the car was returned to its owner he found items in it including a bank card and a bag which were found to have been take from a property in Rochdale after the kitchen window was smashed. Cooper had been accused of breaking into this property but his not guilty plea was accepted. He admitted handling the stolen goods. The court heard Copper had 40 convictions including numerous for previous domestic burglaries which meant there was no alternative to imprisonment.

Representing him, defence counsel Mark Friend said he had been out of prison for a short time before the offences took place.

He said: “Unfortunately he developed a debt rather quickly. The defendant returned to familiar pastures.

“He is still a relatively young man in his late twenties.

“He hopes this custodial sentence will be his last.”

Judge Maurice Greene jailed Cooper, of Unity Street in Heywood, for three years and four months.