AN OPPORTUNIST thief stole a purse which had been left on top of a self service check-out.

Blackburn magistrates heard the purse, which was not recovered, contained irreplaceable photographs of the owners deceased brother.

Stephen Lee Callaghan, 51, of St Leger Court, Accrington, pleaded guilty to theft of a purse and cash to the value of £95 belonging to Casee Leigh. He was fined £120 and ordered to pay £150 compensation.

Samantha Hayward, prosecuting, said Ms Lee had walked into Accrington town centre on November 27 to do some Christmas shopping.

She withdrew £100 from a cash machine and in the second shop she visited, Poundland, put her purse on top of the check-out till while she packed her bag.

"She left her purse and was sitting on a bench outside when she realised what she had done," said Miss Hayward.

"The CCTV footage from the shop was downloaded and she launched a social media campaign which led to members of the public identifying the defendant."

Neil Howard, defending, said his client accepted it had been an "unsavoury" incident.

"When he left home that morning he had no intention of committing an offence," said Mr Howard.

"Initially he intended to hand the purse in but the stark reality is that he didn't."

Mr Howard said his client was ashamed of what he had done.

"Clearly there was sentimental value of the pictures of her deceased brother and that weighs heavily on my client," said Mr Howard.

"Clearly the loss of the pictures increases the emotional stress on the victim."