A HOMELESS man who burgled a Good Samaritan pensioner has been jailed for three years.

Lee Allen sneaked into the house of a 74-year-old widow, who had helped him in the past, after asking her to get him a glass of water and pinched her purse.

And when the 29-year-old, who has 128 previous convictions, was arrested he claimed the old lady was a 'fence' handling stolen goods for local criminals.

Tessa Hingston, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court the victim knew him as Lee and that he was homeless, often living in a tent near her Walcot home.

In the past she had given him cigarettes and small amounts of cash to buy food and drink for himself.

When he went to her door in Courtenay Road at about 11am on the morning of Monday September 11 he said he needed bus fare as he was going to hand himself in.

Thinking he was doing the right thing she gave him £5 or £6 and he then asked for a cigarette, so she went to get him some leaving her purse on a table by the door.

When she returned he asked if he could have some water and when she got him it he was in the house, despite being asked to wait outside, but keen to get away.

Moments after he left she realised her purse was missing which contained about £180 in cash and sentimental photos including some of her husband who recently died.

Miss Hingston said that as a result of the incident the woman no longer felt safe and struggled to sleep.

The pensioner said her son had told her it was 'only money' taken but she said it was for her bills and the photos were irreplaceable adding 'He has targeted me and I am worried he will come back'.

When he was questioned he claimed that the victim was in fact his 'fence' who sold stolen goods for him and other thieves, which the court heard was not true.

Allen, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to burglary. The court heard he had 128 previous convictions and has been convicted at least twice for house burglary.

Richard Williams, defending, said that his client understood that he was facing a lengthy jail term for what he had done.

"It was opportunistic: he took advantage when she left the door to go to another room," he said.

His client had a long standing drug problem, he said, and needed quick cash as he was 'living fix to fix' at the time.

Jailing him Judge Robert Pawson said "You have got a dreadful record, I am afraid Mr Allen, there is no other way to describe it.

"It is conceded that you fall foul of what is called in slang the three strike rule. 128 offences spanning from 2002 until now. That is 15 years.

"On those occasions you went to the house of a woman in her mid 70s, a pensioner who was a bit of a soft touch.

"From time to time she would give you money or cigarettes when you needed them.

"She felt as thought she was targeted and that is what I think too, having heard the facts.

"It is opportunism to an extent but you knew what you were going to do if you got the chance: and you got the chance and you took it.

"You didn't help yourself Mr Allen by claiming after you had been arrested that she was a fence, that she was dealing stolen property for other thieves and you. The police have checked and she has no criminal record."