A SERIAL thief left a pensioner without cash for gifts after pinching her purse on Christmas Eve, a court was told.

Burnley magistrates heard how victim Sheila Geoghegan was in Asda pharmacy when Mary Howarth dipped into her handbag and helped herself to the purse, worth £80 with its contents.

The victim was left with no money to get a bus home, had to go to the bank, but struggled to get money as she had no identification on her. The stolen money had been meant for Christmas presents.

Howarth had been shoplifting that day as well, taking clothing worth £35 from Sports Direct in Burnley. She had also taken food from Aldi and Iceland on September 8 and 16. The clothes were found at her home address by police.

Howarth, of Castle Street, Stoneyholme, Burnley, admitted four theft allegations and was bailed until January 15, for a pre-sentence report.

She was told sentencing options were open.

Alex Mann, prosecuting, said the purse theft was fairly opportunistic.The victim was left shaken up when she checked her bag and found the purse was gone.

Mrs Mann continued: “The victim had taken the money to buy Christmas presents and had not done her shopping then.”