A THIEF who stole a purse from a 92-year-old woman has been jailed for 24 weeks.

Simon Ambler, from Stamford Close, in Toothill, admitted to stealing the purse from his elderly victim’s handbag while she was looking in the freezers in Aldi on August 13.

The purse contained £60 in cash, the victim’s house keys, her debit card, a gold pendant, and a list of addresses for her relatives.

The 39-year-old also admitted taking four rings worth a total of £16 from a stall in Blunsdon Market on August 4.

Ambler had a four-week suspended sentence in place before committing these offences so he brought a suitcase and a large rucksack with him to the dock, aware the day would end with him behind bars.

He said tearful goodbyes and apologies to his partner, who was watching from the public gallery, when he was sentenced by the chairman of the bench, Linda Raine.

Pauline Lambert, prosecuting, described how Ambler’s crime affected his elderly victim.

She said: “The woman said she was very shocked and saddened by the incident, she feels that she has been targeted because of her age and that upsets her.

“She also said she’s been unable to sleep but has a good family around her and won’t let this stop her from going about her daily business.

“Mr Ambler carried out other thefts earlier this year and served 30 months in jail for a series of similar offences in 2011.

“He suffers from memory loss due to head injuries he suffered in a car crash in 2005.

“Upon seeing the CCTV of him reaching into her bag, he said ‘I can’t believe I did that, that’s disgusting’ and started to cry.”

“He stole it to buy things for his daughter and stole the rings from Blunsdon Market for himself to wear.

Stephen Collins, defending, claimed that his client thought the handbag was owned by the victim’s daughter, who was pushing the trolley, so the purse theft was not targeted at an elderly person.

Mr Collins said: “He said that although he has done some despicable things, he would never stoop that low.”

Ambler stole purses from the handbags of two other elderly supermarket shoppers in May.

A representative from the Probation Service outlined Ambler’s history of drug addiction and mental health issues. The representative said: “He was made homeless nine months ago, began sofa-surfing and in times of desperation he resorted to past behaviour.

“He relapsed and started using crack cocaine but didn’t admit it when he was in court for the previous offence earlier this year - his excuse was a lack of benefits.

“There could have been added support in place for him if he had admitted his relapse, he said he has been ‘an absolute fool’ and buried his head in the sand.

“He used to use heroin but was drug-free during his time in prison and, considering his record, he has done well.

“He suffers from PTSD, depression and anxiety so there are concerns about him being in prison and he said it was ‘pretty bad’ there. He has an enormous amount to lose, he has a daughter and his partner is pregnant.”

Ambler’s suspended sentence was activated and will run concurrently with his 24 weeks in jail.

Ambler was also ordered to pay £115 to victim services.

Another theft charge from an alleged incident on August 13 was withdrawn and no additional penalty was given for the charges of failing to surrender and answer to police/court bail.