A BURGLAR who stole a retired police officer’s long service medal and his dead wife’s jewellery has been jailed.

Edward Fitzgerald, who ransacked the home of widower Roger Caldwell while he was visiting his daughter in June, also stole from pensioners' homes while they were away on holiday.

Mr Caldwell was told about the break-in by his son on May 8, and returned to his Radcliffe home on the same day to find £9,300 of damage done to his home.

Fitzgerald stole credit cards, perfume and other police memorabilia as well as Mr Caldwell’s long service medal and his late wife’s jewellery, which was said to be irreplaceable.

Bolton Crown Court was told the incident has had a dramatic effect on Mr Caldwell’s life, and that it took him two days to sort out his house.

The court also heard it was two weeks before Mr Caldwell returned to live at his house.

Fitzgerald carried out another burglary days later, on May 11, in Little Lever, while the elderly residents were on holiday.

At about 11.45pm a neighbour spotted two men who ran off after they realised they had been spotted.

The elderly couple who live at the address, aged 80 and 76, were on holiday and were said to be upset and shocked.

Among the items taken was £200 in cash, bank cards and coins, all of which have since been recovered.

Fitzgerald, aged 45, of Bolton Road, Radcliffe, was given 18 months in prison, with 16 months for the burglaries and a further two months for breaching a previous suspended sentence.

The court was told he had an extensive criminal record, with 37 convictions from 95 offences over the course of a long criminal career.

Fitzgerald has a drug problem, the court heard.

He said he carried out the burglaries in desperation at a lack of money.

Judge Timothy Stead said: “A great value of property was taken, and some of these items were of considerable sentimental value to the occupier.

“He describes that offence as having a dramatic effect on him for some time, and that he didn’t want to live in his own house as a result of the intrusion.”