Richard Blaylock was 11 when, in 1943, he embarked on a career in burglary. Yesterday the white-haired 76-year-old began his latest stretch behind bars – his 43rd at Her Majesty's pleasure – for an attempted robbery in Carlisle.
As the grandfather was led away with a resigned smile to start a three-month stint inside HMP Durham, the judge described him as an "historic professional burglar", while a neighbour called him simply a "thieving old bugger".
Blaylock was stopped by police at 1am on 2 July. He said he was on his way home. A search revealed he was carrying a crowbar, two screwdrivers, a chisel, a gas burner, a knife, a set of batteries, a torch and a magnifying glass – for his failing eyes.
A neighbour had heard scratching coming from the house next door, and, knowing the family to be on holiday, called the police.
Once arrested, Blaylock told officers he was "only nicking boards" to make an exercise run for his ferrets.
At Carlisle magistrates' court, District Judge Gerald Chalk told him: "Mr Blaylock you are going to prison today for 90 days. You were carrying a substantial amount of equipment during dark hours. I feel I have no alternative. You are a historic professional burglar."
Blaylock's solicitor, John Smith, had pleaded for leniency, but admitted his client had an "awful" record, "probably the worst any of us have seen for many years."
Five years ago Blaylock was convicted of burgling with his grandson, David. On that occasion, he was jailed for four years, and David two years.