A SERIAL raider who targeted homes just minutes from his home "would have committed further offences if he had not been caught", a police boss has warned.

Conor Ashton was handed 12 years in jail today after admitting six burglaries and two aggravated burglaries.

Gazette: conor ashton essex police

The 24-year-old, of Purcell Close, in Colchester, modelled himself on 1980s American serial killer Richard Ramirez, known as the “nightstalker”.

After sentencing, senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Alan Pitcher, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate: “The judge said Conor Ashton is a dangerous individual whose offending had clearly escalated from breaking into empty homes to arming himself with a knife and targeting victims as they slept.

Gazette: conor ashton essex police

Search - cable ties were found at Ashton's home, in Purcell Close

“I’ve no doubt there was a significant risk he could have committed further offences if he hadn’t been caught when he was.

“When we seized a computer he had used, we found evidence that he had searched the internet using the search term ‘original night stalker’, which suggested he was looking for inspiration for his crimes.”

Ashton carefully planned and executed his crimes, leaving little forensic trace in his attempts to avoid detection.

Gazette: conor ashton essex police

Cover - Ashton wore these gloves throughout each raid

However during their investigation, detectives found similarities between the spate of burglaries as most of the victims were female and a number were also students.

Once inside the homes he targeted, on some occasions the burglar had thrown food and drink around and in others had rifled through underwear drawers.

Graffiti was also left at some scenes, which included images of a pentagram, the words ‘Stalking Ransacker’ and derisory comments about the police.

Gazette: conor ashton essex police

Goading - Ashton left notes for the police at victims' homes

Detectives began looking for similarities with other reported burglaries and linked incidents to one particular one in January 2014, in which a laptop and money were stolen from a student’s room.

A derogatory comment about the police had also been written on the wall.

Gazette: conor ashton essex police

Caught - experts matched the 'unusual' writing 

They discovered the laptop had been re-registered to someone else, who told officers he had bought it from Ashton the month after it was stolen.

This led to his arrest on September 21 last year. A balaclava, black gloves and two cable ties were found in his bedroom at his home in Purcell Close.

A handwriting expert compared Ashton’s writing to some that was left at burglary scenes and found clear similarities.

DI Pitcher added: “This has been a very disturbing case and I can’t begin to imagine how terrified Ashton’s last two victims in particular must have felt.

“I want to thank them and the other victims he targeted for their support throughout this investigation and I hope today’s sentence gives them some comfort that he is now behind bars.”