A PROLIFIC burglar who has spent more than half his life behind bars has been handed yet another jail sentence after smashing into a shop and swiping protein powder.

Jon Birch, 41, kicked his way into Holland and Barrett in Culver Walk, Colchester, and took £275 worth of supplements.

Police caught up with the rough sleeper in the town centre just 12 hours after the February raid, recognising him from CCTV footage even though he had quickly swapped clothes following the burglary in a bid to avoid detection.

However, Birch managed to give them the slip after they consented to allowing him to have a cigarette before he was taken to the station.

After pretending to roll himself one, he then ran off.

But Birch, of no fixed address, was later found hiding under a bush in nearby Sheepen Road.

He had only just been released from a 20 month prison term for a string of five house burglaries when he broke into the shop in February.

Birch has also been the victim of crime, having been stabbed in a walkthrough nicknamed Graffiti Alley last year in an incident which saw fellow rough sleeper Carl Hopkins killed.

The incident, and subsequent police investigation, was depicted on recent BBC Two documentary Murder 24/7.

The pair had planned to rob a teenage drug dealer, who successfully convinced a jury he was acting in self defence and was cleared of the charges against him.

Birch admitted burglary and escaping lawful custody during an Ipswich Crown Court hearing.

Emma Nash, mitigating, said he had been forced to turn back to crime because he had nowhere to live.

"He has been homeless for many years and has had issues relating to drugs," he said.

"He thought upon release he would be given help with his housing but it never materialised.

"The escape was only for a short period.

"In total, he has spent more than 26 years of his life in jail."

Judge Martyn Levett jailed Birch for a further 16 months, lamenting his criminal record of 42 previous convictions, including one for manslaughter.

"I can see this must have been planned," he said.

"You are seen looking up while in the store seemingly trying to see where the CCTV cameras are.

"Having taken certain items you returned back to the same area to take more."