AN INFAMOUS purse dipper who left one victim in tears and another feeling devastated has been jailed for more than two years.

After a series of no shows, Simon Ambler was finally sentenced to 27 months imprisonment at Swindon Crown Court for a series of purse thefts at shops across the town.

Notorious for his purse dipping habit, Ambler’s latest crimes were all committed over a 20-day period between August 2 and 22

He targeted an elderly woman volunteering in the West Swindon library and others as they shopped in Wilko, Sainsbury’s and Aldi stores.

One of Ambler's victims had had her bag lifted as she volunteered in the library at the Link Centre.

The handbag, taken as helped-out with the Swindon Summer Reading Challenge aimed at encouraging youngsters to read, had contained her keys, mobile phone and diary – as well as cash.

In a victim personal statement read to the court by the woman earlier this year, she said the theft had left her scared, devastated and having to pay to change her locks.

Astonishingly, perhaps, she requested that Ambler get the help he needed.

“I have worked with troubled, damaged people and I am keen for them to get the help they need. The best outcome of all this would be breaking this vicious cycle,” she told addict Ambler in a statement that brought the thief to tears.

Another victim, 84, whose purse containing £100 in notes was taken as she shopped in the Brunel Centre Sainsbury’s, wrote in her statement that she had started shaking and crying when she realised her bag had been rifled through.

“I just felt lost,” she said in a statement.

The 41-year-old’s record of 51 convictions for 133 offences has previously been labelled appalling by the judge that sentenced him.

PC Paul Bezzant said: “Throughout August, Ambler committed a series of thefts at shops around the town, targeting mostly elderly women who were shopping on their own at the time.

“His actions left them feeling extremely upset and distressed.

“I am pleased that he has been given a custodial sentence – the town is a safer place whilst he is in prison."

The officer urged Christmas shoppers to stay vigilant as they were out and about in the town centre: "Ensure purses are at the bottom of handbags, in a zipped compartment where possible.

"Consider using a purse chain to make it difficult for anyone to steal. Always be mindful of those around you, especially when withdrawing cash or making purchases at tills.”