A MAN has been jailed after stealing a woman's purse while she was shopping.

Jason King has been sent to prison for one year after targeting the vulnerable 86-year-old.

He stalked her for ten minutes while she was shopping in Aldi in London Road, Brighton, on April 24 last year.

He then dipped his hand into her handbag and stole her wallet.

The Argus:

The elderly woman was particularly vulnerable because she suffered from a spine injury and walked with a stoop.

When she reached for her handbag to pay she realised her money and cards had disappeared and she was unable to pay for her shopping.

The victim died less than two months after the theft.

Although she died of natural causes, her carers believe the distress the incident caused may have been a factor in hastening her death, police said.

CCTV footage caught the whole incident online.

King is seen grabbing the elderly woman’s purse, opening it and finding it empty.

He then goes back and finds her wallet with her money and cards which he takes after putting the empty purse back.

Police found King then used her contactless cards in nearby stores.

A Sussex Police spokesman described the thief as "despicable" and said: “The theft had a devastating effect on the victim, and her carers assess that the anxiety and loss of confidence she felt as a result meant she never left home again. She died less than two months later.

“Thanks to the diligence of Aldi staff, King was spotted when he came back into the store in August last year, and he was arrested and charged.”

The Argus:

King failed to attend court for his trial and was found guilty of theft in his absence because the video evidence was so compelling.

He appealed against the conviction and the victim’s daughter had to endure the ordeal of making a statement identifying her own mother from the footage.

But his appeal was dismissed on July 5 this year at Brighton Crown Court.

King did not attend court the second time, saying he had been injured at work the previous day. The judge issued a warrant for his arrest and officers arrested him on July 9.

He appeared at court and was sentenced to 52 weeks imprisonment at Brighton Crown Court.

Police Investigator Paul Dixon said: “This was a very distressing case in which an elderly lady was ruthlessly taken advantage of by a despicable thief who gave no thought to the impact on his victim.”