A 97-YEAR-OLD woman is too frightened to go out alone after having her purse stolen by a callous thief.

'Warm and loving' Dorothy Fowler fell victim to a crime branded 'despicable' by cops when her cash and cards were snatched while she shopped in Park South.

Dorothy had gone to the Post Office on Whitbourne Avenue to withdraw her pension and pay her bills and popped her money into her purse, which sat on her walking frame.

She realised it had gone when she went to buy a Lotto ticket.

Dorothy told the Adver: “My purse was gone, and I knew I hadn’t been anywhere. I couldn’t believe it and I was in absolute shock.

“I didn’t see the man but I knew it was taken in that shop. So I was looking for it, but the purse was gone. I had the purse for years and years.”

The purse contained around £80 as well as bank, electricity and gas cards. Dorothy was planning to go shopping at Co-op afterwards.

The incident happened at around 10am on Saturday, January 25. Garry Bourne, 42, of Park South, has since been charged with one count of theft.

He has been released on unconditional bail and is due to appear at Swindon Magistrates' Court in April.

Dorothy said: “The police came and told they caught someone. I was so relieved.

She added: “I make sure now not to take much money at all.

“Because I didn’t think it would ever happen and here we go.

“I am now more careful. It hasn’t been a very good year but it’s getting better.”

Dorothy's former neighbour Jade Rivers has set up a fundraising page in a bid to cover the elderly victim's losses.

She said: “When she had her purse taken, there was money to pay her bills and stuff in it. She'd just withdrawn the money.

“She only gets a pension and she’s obviously out of pocket, she doesn’t have a lot of money, so I wanted to raise that and a little bit of extra just to sort of restore her faith in people.”

On the GoFundMe page, 15 people have donated and this has helped raise £165 in just a few days. Jade's target is £200.

She added: “I was completely shocked about what happened, I couldn’t believe it.

“She is still a little bit shaken up and she is scared of going out on her own. Nothing like this ever happened before.”

The 28-year-old mum has known Dorothy – who she also knows as Dolly – for about three years and met her when they both lived on Shaftesbury Avenue.

She added: “ She is really kindhearted, warm and a loving person.

“She had the funniest life stories and always puts a smile on anyone’s face that she meets.

“Since the incident she is now too afraid to go out alone and only goes out with friends to get her shopping and pay bills.”

Dorothy added:“The neighbours are really good, we are all very good friends together, we don’t seat in each other's homes but if we want anything, we know where to go and they come to me.

"And Jade has been so nice.”

PC Nici Pearce issued a warning after leading the police probe.

She said: "This was a despicable offence against a vulnerable elderly lady

“I would urge anyone who is out and about shopping to be mindful of their personal security and take steps to ensure purses are securely fastened within handbags and consider the use of purse straps to make it as difficult as possible for thieves.”

Anyone who wants to donate and support Dorothy should visit www.gofundme.com/f/raising-money-for-97-year-old-victim