A PROLIFIC burglar cruised around Dorset in a convertible BMW picking out properties to break into.

Alan Byrne raided more than 20 properties across the county – the majority in Bournemouth and Wimborne.

But the 52-year-old's spree was brought to a halt when police found a torch, with his DNA on it, at one of the burgled homes.

On Friday, at Bournemouth Crown Court, Byrne was sentenced to more than three years in prison.

Byrne had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary.

He also asked the court to take a further 22 burglaries into account – where a defendant admits to offences that the police were not already investigating them for.

The court heard how one of the charged counts of burglary took place in Jones Close, Wilton, Wiltshire, in September.

Prosecutor Edward Lewis told the court how the homeowners returned home to find one of their windows open.

When they got into the property, it had been ransacked and a number of items stolen, including purses, a computer and a knife set.

In the same month, Byrne also raided a property in Hill Crest Road, Bournemouth.

Mr Lewis said Byrne once again ransacked the property and stole jewellery, including an engagement ring.

When police investigated they found a torch, which had DNA on it linked to Byrne.

They also found links to the burglary through Byrne's silver BMW convertible, which showed he had driven to one of the burglaries.

In mitigation, Richard Onslow said Byrne was a victim of abuse at the hands of priests and as a result had turned to drugs as young as 11.

Mr Onslow said Byrne was given a compensation package, which he "blew on drugs".

Mr Onslow said that Byrne had stopped offending after successfully completing a drug rehabilitation programme, but had relapsed and returned to crime.

Judge Robert Pawson sentenced Byrne, of Beswick Avenue, Bournemouth, to a total of three years and three months.

He said: "Your life makes for pretty gruesome reading and you have suffered at the hands of those who were meant to be looking after you.

"For what it is worth, I am sorry to hear that."

He added: "These offences must be marked with a custodial sentence."