A SEX worker with 16 theft convictions from this year alone stole cash and a bank card from customers.

Serial thief Kathleen Bernadette Shiel, 31, of Bellsay, Toothill, pleaded guilty to stealing a bank card, cash a safe and a mobile phone. She also admitted fraudulently using the bank card to buy fags and food.

The sex worker took the items from two male customers to help fund an addiction to heroin and crack cocaine.

But Swindon magistrates heard that a two week spell in prison has seen her go cold turkey – with hopes that she has kicked the drugs habit entirely.

Shiel has 25 previous theft convictions and 16 previous convictions for fraud. This year alone, she has 16 convictions for theft.

Magistrates were told yesterday that her offending had escalated this year, after she lost her children and her drug taking became worse.

Prosecutor Kate Prince told the court that Shiel had visited the home of customer overnight on October 11.

“After she left he realised his bank card was missing from his property,” she said.

Shiel used the card to attempt to buy cigarettes and food in the early hours of October 12, the prosecutor added.

A week later, Shiel visited another man, who had previously paid her for sex “on a couple of occasions”.

She knocked on his door on October 22, prosecutor Ms Prince said: “She asked him for money.”

He gave Shiel £200 on the condition that she pay it back the next day.

While in the house, Shiel went upstairs where it was alleged she took a mobile phone and safe. Mrs Prince said: “I believe the items were taken from his bedroom.”

Defending, Emma Thacker said of Shiel: “She holds her hands up to those matters today.

“Miss Shiel fully admits she offers services to gentlemen within the area. There’s no suggestion she’s been in the two men’s homes when she isn’t meant to be. However, she’s certainly overstepped the mark.

“2017 has certainly been a troublesome year for Miss Shiel. Prior to that, 2015 and 2016 were relatively light years.”

Ms Thacker said her client told her, “My mental health has been appalling”.

Losing custody of her children had prompted the decline, Ms Thacker said. “It’s really all hit me and I’ve fallen back into drug use,” Shiel told her solicitor.

Ms Thacker said her client had gone “cold turkey” while on remand in HMP Eastwood Park. “She’s looking considerably healthier and she reports she’s now receiving privileges within the custodial setting because she’s considered a model prisoner. She wants another chance, she wants to work with CGL.”

Magistrates awarded Shiel bail until a pre-sentence report could be compiled by probation and drug officers from CGL.

However, as she is currently remanded in prison ahead of a Swindon Crown Court case, the bail was a largely “technical” matter.

Chairman of the bench Jonathan Chappell urged Shiel to keep off the drugs: “This is your chance. You can take it or you can screw it up. The decision for that is unfortunately in your hands.”

Shiel will be sentenced at Swindon Magistrates Court on November 27.