A THIEF who stole a sick pensioner’s life savings just three weeks after she was discharged from intensive care has been jailed.

Isaac Lee targeted the 78-year-old disabled woman in Worcester while she was recovering after being rushed to hospital by ambulance, unable to breathe.

Lee was jailed for 12 months at Hereford Crown Court on Friday and ordered to pay back the £1,000 he stole after working on her gutters.

Jean Preece was so ill she spent five days in intensive care at Worcestershire Royal Hospital and her son returned from Spain urgently having been told she might not survive.

When the theft happened on November 15 last year it was the first time Mrs Preece had ventured out on her own to the shops with her walking stick, something she was 'proud' of, trying to keep as much independence as she could despite multiple health problems including polymyalgia rheumatica, temporal arteritis, thyroid problems, oedema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney and heart problems, osteoporosis, crushed vertebrae and a damaged spine.

Lee, aged 41, of Offerton Lane, Warndon, Worcester, stole the cash from an envelope she had taken out of her handbag and placed on a table while her back was turned.

However, he pleaded not guilty which meant the widow had the added stress of going to court to give evidence at Lee's trial at Worcester Magistrates Court on September 22 which led to him being convicted.

Jean Preece of Tolladine Road, Worcester, said she wanted to thank both West Mercia Police and the Crown Prosecution Service for supporting her during her ordeal and that both had shown her great kindness.

Mrs Preece, speaking after Lee’s conviction, said she had withdrawn £2,500 from the bank that day, £2,000 of which was for work on her son’s drive and £500 was to pay a man she knew as ‘Charlie’, real name Isaac Lee, for work on the guttering of her home.

Mrs Preece had trusted Lee because he had done previous work on her conifers. She described him as coming across as ‘kind and charming and very professional’.

Two men initially came to her terraced house, telling her there was a problem with her guttering.

She turned them away but later Lee arrived and said he could fix the guttering for her instead. Mrs Preece now believes she was set up and that the three were working together.

She had been into the city centre on the bus to collect the money from the bank and when she got back Lee was in his van outside her house and even helped her take her shopping inside.

She put her handbag on the table and Lee was given £500 for the completed job.

However, he asked her for a flyer he had previously given her, telling her it was 'important' he had it back.

While she looked for it Lee took the money. When she realised the money was gone she searched again, thinking she must have misplaced it.

She said: “I thought ‘no, he couldn’t have’. I went through my bag again, thinking I must have moved it. I thought ‘he’s taken it!’ I could not believe he was so stupid. Police arrested him the next day.

“I was in shock. I couldn’t believe anyone would do that. No-one else could have taken it as there was only myself and him there.

“I want to emphasise how much support and thoughtfulness and consideration the police gave me. They even brought me a large bouquet of flowers and a grant from a special fund.

"They were thorough and could not have been kinder. "They take so much abuse. They kept me up to date with everything that was happening. They have been so diligent. The crown prosecution service was kindness itself.”

She added: "I'm not a victim or feeble. I have a stick and I'm an Ares. Don't mess with me."