AN ex-soldier left with a brain injury after being blown up in Afghanistan was spared jail for a 'premeditated' raid on his aunt and uncle's Rossendale farmhouse, in which he took a £5,500 haul.

Ashley Clark lost friends and suffered life-changing injuries as a teenager, when he and comrades were the victims of a roadside bomb in August 2010.

He was flown back to hospital in Birmingham for treatment, with his future in the army in tatters.

Clark may yet have to have an operation to remove a cyst from over the brain injury, Burnley Crown Court heard.

The hearing was told how Clark stole cash and a £5,000 Rolex watch from the Bacup farmhouse home of Mr and Mrs Collin Collier, knowing they kept valuables in a secret drawer in the property.

Clark also helped himself to £300 cash from the purse of his aunt, said to have been keeping for a headstone, and £173 in pound coins from a jar, while the family was out celebrating a birthday.

Clark, a former member of the Duke of Lancaster's infantry, who had left his aunt very upset by his betrayal, had faced being locked up for breaching the Colliers' trust and their home.

But, he was given a "final chance "by a judge who told him his guilty plea was what had stood between him and immediate custody.

The defendant, now 21, of Walk Mill Place, Cliviger, admitted burglary, on February 11. He was given 12 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, with supervision.

Silvia Dacre, prosecuting, said the Colliers had gone out and Clark arranged for his girlfriend to drive him to the area of the farm. She later collected him and he was counting £1 coins to the tune of £173.

The Rolex watch was recovered, as was the £173. Miss Dacre added the defendant was 'relatively lightly convicted' and had offences of threatening behaviour, affray and excess alcohol on his record.

Tim Storrie, for Clark, said he very much regretted what he had done.

The defendant was sent into a "very considerable degree of personal turmoil" after being blown up. He woke up in hospital in Birmingham and discovered his friends and colleagues were dead. Clark had been left with loss of hearing, blurred vision and insomnia as well as the brain injury and was facing surgery.

Sentencing, Recorder Rachel Wood told the defendant: “This, in my view, is a disgraceful offence. You should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself.

“Mr and Mrs Collier are right to feel completely betrayed by your actions."