A BEREAVED mum was left heartbroken after a thief stole a handbag containing her late daughter's keys.

Bolton Crown Court heard how Andrea Horner accidentally left her handbag outside Costa Coffee in Bolton and thief Elizabeth Cronin picked it up.

Martin Callery, prosecuting, said Ms Horner had gone outside for a cigarette on June


"Regrettably, when she went back into the coffee shop she inadvertently left her handbag on a chair outside," he said.

"This defendant took the opportunity, having seen the handbag, of making off with it."

Ms Horner and her friend got into their car and attempted to find the thief.

Cronin was arrested later in the day after a police officer recognised her from CCTV footage.

"She admitted responsibility for the theft. She said she had thrown the bag opposite the Job Centre into a bush," he said.

In the bag had been a purse, bank cards, cash, make up and keys, including keys belonging to her late daughter.

"She says that the incident left her extremely upset. She had recently suffered a bereavement. Her daughter had passed away and her keys were in the bag," said Mr Callery.

Cronin, aged 32, of Thornbank East, Bolton, who has a lengthy criminal record, pleaded guilty to theft.

Kimberley Morton, defending, said that Cronin committed offences to feed a drug addiction and, while in prison awaiting sentence, had resumed taking anti-psychotic medication and methadone. She stressed that Ms Horner's keys have been recovered. "She is very sorry for this lady. She did not know the circumstances of the bereavement," said Miss Morton.

The Honorary Recorder of Bolton, Judge Martin Walsh, sentenced Cronin to eight months in prison.

He told her: "This was an opportunistic theft. You took the opportunity of taking an unguarded handbag and contents which caused distress. When you come out of prison you at least have an opportunity of working with the drug team and the probation service."