A Sussex man who targeted gay people has been jailed for five years for burglary.

Nicholas Rowell, 44, was already serving a five-year jail term for burglary when he escaped from an open prison in June last year.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and one of burglary at Preston Crown Court.

The court heard that he used the name ‘Slick Nick’ on gay dating websites to con men into trusting him.

After befriending them and gaining access to their homes, he would steal their property.

In early June 2009, he befriended a man from Etchingham, East Sussex, and visited him several times before stealing his car, cash, phone and laptop.

In the same month, he met another man from Brighton through the website Gumtree.com and stole his jewellery, laptop, mobile phone, camera and debit card.

Police said that in both cases, he gained the men’s confidence, staying overnight and being given house keys before disappearing with their property.

Rowell had also targeted a country bed and breakfast in Horsham in September. He paid to stay the night, waited for the owners to leave, and stole cash, jewellery and a grandmother clock.

Nick Antjoule, Brighton’s LGBT liaison officer, said: “Members of the LGBT community have traditionally been a target for this type of crime by offenders who thought they were soft targets.

“This conviction and others like it suggest otherwise but I would urge those using dating websites to keep their wits about them.”