A PENSIONER who stole an expensive watch from the home of a seriously ill cancer patient after visiting him in a hospice has walked free from court.

Judge Douglas Field told Brenda Cook that she deserved to go to prison for the ‘very mean and wicked crime’ against her friend. But after hearing about the 62-year-old’s medical problems he imposed a suspended sentence, despite her lengthy history of crime.

Colin Meeke, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court victim Michael Kight is suffering from cancer and living in sheltered accommodation in Gorse Hill. In July last year he was taken to the Great Western Hospital for treatment and then moved to the Prospect Hospice. While he was there it became clear that a number of things had gone missing from his home.

When a nurse mentioned the missing items to Cook she accidentally threw suspicion on herself by saying Mr Kight had given her an expensive watch as a gift before being admitted.

Mr Meeke said: “This defendant was an acquaintance of his, she had known him on and off for a number of years. She visited him often in hospital but she was beginning to make something of a nuisance of herself and he and family asked nursing staff to put a stop to it.”

He said the nurse reported the chance remark and when Cook’s car was searched the £650 Raymond Weil watch was found in the boot. She was questioned by the police and stuck to the story about the watch being a gift but later admitted she had stolen it.

Cook, of Espringham House, Hathaway Road, Kingsdown, was initially charged with burglary after a number of other items went missing from his home. But prosecutors said they would not seek a trial after she admitted theft of the watch from his home at The Ferns on Ipswich Street.

The court heard she had numerous previous convictions dating from 1968, with the latest offences being eBay frauds in 2012.

Rob Ross, defending, said the theft was opportunist as she was at Mr Kight’s house, saw the watch and just took it.

“There was something jackdawish about it. She didn’t try to sell it as you would expect, bearing in mind she is on benefits,” he said.

Mr Ross told the court that his client, who appeared in the dock with crutches, suffered from a number of health issues and needed a carer. He said she required assistance walking, getting out of bed or a chair, toileting, eating and drinking, meaning it would be very difficult for the authorities if she was jailed.

Passing sentence Judge Douglas Field said: “The circumstances are extremely serious. This was a very mean and wicked crime. You befriended your victim, he was seriously ill in hospital with cancer and he treated you as a friend and you betrayed all that by going in to his house and stealing the watch.

“You deserve to go to prison immediately. The only reason I am not sending you to prison is you are disabled to some degree and suffer hypertension and diabetes.”

He imposed an eight month jail term, suspended for a year, and ordered she abided by a 7pm to 6am curfew for three months.