A callous crook who raided the home of a vulnerable single parent living next door to his grandparents has been jailed for 12 months at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
The victim had watched Steven Wardle grow up over the years, but that counted for nothing when he saw the three-bedroom semi was unoccupied after the owner took her daughter to school, the court heard yesterday.
Wardle, aged 36, escaped with a £380 haul that included £80 saved by the young girl from her pocket money, revealed prosecutor Mr Trevor Meegan.
But fingerprints he left on the envelope in which the cash had been kept led to his arrest more than two months later, the court was told.
He broke into the house in Lower Prestwood Road, Wednesfield, and stole jewellery and money after forcing an upstairs bedroom window on September 28 last year.
The 49-year-old victim later wrote in a letter: “I have known him for years and watched him grow from a boy to a man.
“I thought he was a good lad, but now I know he is just a nasty piece of work.”
The woman, who has been left feeling unsafe in her own home since the burglary, concluded: “It is not what they take – it is what they leave behind.”
Mr Jon Roe, defending, said: “He has an unenviable criminal record but this was his first dwelling house burglary. He committed this offence to fund an addiction to drugs but is now free of that and disgusted by his own behaviour.
“His relationship with his grandmother is very difficult because she takes the same view as her neighbour.”
Wardle, from Arnhem Close, Wednesfield, who had previous convictions for shoplifting, admitted burglary and was sent to prison by Judge Michael Challinor.
The judge told him: “You decided to burgle somebody you knew.
“She was in a fragile psychological state and the impact on her of this crime has been considerable.”