A PICKPOCKET who targeted elderly Aldi and Lidl shoppers has been told his crimes were “nasty and sneaky”.

The pensioners, some in their 80s were shopping at the stores when they were distracted by Nicolae Radu’s accomplice while the thief stole wallets and purses from bags in their trollies.

David Lees, prosecuting, told the court how Radu, aged 39, of Gordon Street, Leigh, committed five of the offences in Hertfordshire and two further crimes in Wigan.

On September 2 last year Radu and another man went to Aldi in Hemel Hempstead where an 80-year-old man was shopping.

While the other man distracted him Radu, a father-of-two, stole his wallet containing £44 and a bank card.

Nine days later the pair of thieves were at another Aldi when they used the same method to steal a purse containing £20 and cards from a 73-year-old woman.

On September 21 the pickpockets turned up at Lidl where an 87-year-old woman had £50 in cash taken and cards used to steal a further £500.

Back at Aldi on October 4 a 67-year-old woman had her purse, containing £70 was taken and a then another victim was targeted and a further £70 was taken on October 19.

In Wigan Radu, this time acting on his own, stole £80, along with a silver cross, from a 70-year-old woman shopping in Aldi on November 4 and 12 days later he was back at the store stealing her purse containing £130.

Radu, a Romanian man who came to the UK last year, pleaded guilty to seven counts of theft.

Paul Becker, defending, said: “He fully understands the effect he had had on several people and he is disgusted by his behaviour.”

He added that, at the time, Radu, who is now employed delivering pizzas, was struggling to find work to support his family.

“The defendant says to me that he has learnt his lesson. Hopefully he never gets into the position again where he upsets and traumatises so many people.”

But Recorder Fiona Ashworth told Radu: “You have no previous convictions and yet you appear before this court for committing nasty, sneaky little thefts.

“I am not impressed with your protestations of remorse."

“These are elderly people who were shopping, minding their own business, getting on with their lives and you deliberately preyed on them because of their vulnerability.”

Radu was sentenced to a six months, suspended for 18 months and was ordered to undertake 120 hours of unpaid work as well as participating in 25 days of rehabilitation activities.