A career burglar who specialises in targeting the elderly has been returned for prison for three years for attacking a widow in her own home.
A court heard Thomas Cawley, 32, has spent 20 years in prison or secure accommodation since he started his criminal career aged just ten.
Cawley, who has committed more than 100 burglaries, targeted his 70-year-old victim’s home just days after he was released from a four-year sentence.
Leeds Crown Court heard Cawley forced a security gate at the property in Tingley, near Leeds, as the victim watched television on the afternoon of July 2 this year.
Cawley ransacked the woman’s bedroom and stole cash and jewellery before the pensioner heard the disturbance and went to investigate.
Cawley then pushed the woman hard into a door frame and against a set of drawers when she went to confront him.
She was not seriously injured but the court heard she has felt unsafe and vulnerable in her home since the incident.
In a statement read to the court, the victim described how she was struggling to cope with the death of husband at the time of the offence.
Since the break-in she has been afraid to leave the house and has been given medication to cope with the trauma of the ordeal.
Cawley was followed by witness who saw him leave the house and he was arrested in the street a short time later.
Some of the jewellery was found in his pocket and he had a stolen ring on his finger.
After he was arrested Cawley said he had targeted the house as it was next to an alleyway and nobody could see him.
He told officers he knocked on the door and got no answer so used a pole to force open the security gate.
Cawley, now of Sefton Avenue, Beeston, pleaded guilty to burglary and common assault.
He asked for a further burglary offence to be taken into consideration.
Cawley was described as a prolific burglar for more than two decades.
The court heard Cawley was handed the four-year sentence in September 2009 after he admitted to taking more than £24,000 from the homes of elderly victims.
At the time Cawley admitted taking £3,000 from an 87-year-old woman’s wardrobe after sneaking into her home in Meanwood, Leeds, in June that year.
During that hearing the heroin addict asked for 53 other burglaries to be taken into account – many involving pensioners.
He was released on licence midway through serving that sentence, in 2011, but was recalled to prison almost immediately.
Police checks revealed he was not living at his registered address in Harehills, Leeds, and he was tracked a home near Selby, North Yorkshire, where he was arrested.
Investigations then linked Cawley to two burglaries, one in West Yorkshire and one in North Yorkshire, and he was recalled to prison to finish his four-year sentence.
James Littlehayles, mitigating, said Cawley had been through a troubled childhood and had been forced to commit burglary from the age of ten.
Mr Littlehayles said: “The longest he has been at liberty is three months.
“He has never been able to live in the community at all. He is almost completely institutionalised.
“He has been failed by his family in the main but by the system as a whole.” Describing the offence, Mr Littlehayles said: “Nothing I can say can diminish the seriousness of this offence.
“He had only very recently been released from his last term of imprisonment.
“He wasn’t on licence and he had served the term.
“He was released with no supervision or help. He had attempted this time to sign on for benefits but when difficulties arose he gave up.
“He effectively had no money or income. He simply struggles to come with the outside world.
Judge Guy Kearl, QC, said: “To say you have an extensive record for burglary is an understatement. You were a prolific burglar during the 1990s and 2000s.”