A TERMINALLY-ill retired army major has been left scared to return to his bungalow after burglars stole his precious medals and service mementos.

The raiders prised a key safe off the wall and struck in Shrivenham as James Coffey lay in Great Western Hospital.

The 72-year-old, who gave almost five decades’ service to the British Army, has prostate cancer.

Son Stuart, 47, said: “He doesn’t want to come back and live here now. He wants to go into a nursing home.

“He doesn’t feel safe coming back here. It doesn’t feel like a home anymore.

“He spent his whole life defending his country and then someone does this.”

The family thinks the burglars visited the house on Colton Road on consecutive days, believed to be Wednesday, September 24 and Thursday, September 25.

A talented goalkeeper in his youth, as a teen Mr Coffey tried out for Coventry City FC – but missed out on a place in the squad.

Desperate not to follow his dad into the collieries, he joined the army at 17.

He started with the Royal Signals and from 1965 to 1974 he served in an elite Signals unit attached to the Parachute Regiment.

He did tours in Northern Ireland, also serving in Hong Kong and Germany.

He rose through the ranks, ending his career in uniform as a major before working for the MOD as a civilian. A talented sportsman, Mr Coffey coached boxing and was on the board of the Army Boxing Association.

In May 2017, his long-term partner, Janet, died after a battle with motor neurone disease.

Three months later, Mr Coffey was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer.

He suffered a fall and a stroke and 18 months ago moved to Shrivenham from the east Midlands to be closer to his family.

The grandfather-of-six has spent the past three weeks in hospital, with doctors helping to control pain. His cancer is terminal and he has been told he might not make it to Christmas.

The first the family knew of the burglary was when they went round to get some of his dad’s things on Thursday, September 26, to take to the hospital.

The car, a dark blue Volvo S60, was missing from the drive. A key safe had been prised from the wall, with what appeared to be crowbar marks left on the brickwork.

Inside, the thieves had ignored electronics like Mr Coffey’s TV and laptop. Instead, they had raided the man’s bedroom.

The mattress had been flipped over and drawers pulled out. Among the irreplaceable items stolen were his late wife’s jewellery, including a wedding ring inscribed with the date 31/12/1976 military mementos like cufflinks and buttons given to him to commemorate service, and his miniature medals.

There were three medals taken: a Northern Ireland General Service Medal, the Golden Jubilee medal and his Long Service Good Conduct Medal with bar.

As well as stealing Mr Coffey of his medals, the burglars robbed him of memories to hand to the next generation.

Stuart said: “The army was his life. He’s now not able to pass all of that onto his grandchildren. That’s the most upsetting thing for him.”

He called for judges sentencing those who commit crimes against veterans to have the victims’ service taken into account by the courts.

A Thames Valley Police spokesman appealed for witnesses to come forward: “The force is carrying out a number of enquiries, including house to house, forensic examinations, and reviewing CCTV.”