A MEAN burglar sneaked into an elderly couple's home as they slept and stole possessions, including a family heirloom.

James Barrass was caught after his fingerprints were found on a tankard the pensioners used to store coins.

At Bolton Crown Court he apologised to his victims and stated that he hopes to make it up to them once released from prison.

Barrass, aged 31, has previous convictions for burglary and was jailed for 876 days.

Juliet Berry, prosecuting, told how the victims, in their late 80s, went to bed at 1am on November 13 last year .

The burglary was discovered at 7.30am the next morning when the elderly woman noticed coats in the hallway at their Russell Street, Heaton, home were on the floor and possessions were gone.

Along with jewellery, a TV, man's jacket and coins, worth a total £285, a brooch was missing.

"It was a brooch that had been made by her father as a gift to her mother during the war and passed down to her," said Miss Berry.

But when arrested Barrass denied to police that he had taken it.

In a victim statement, the pensioner told Judge John Edwards that she now has to be extra cautious.

"My husband is permanently on oxygen and it has caused him to feel anxious at times," she added.

In court Barrass, of Ainsworth Lane, Bolton, pleaded guilty to burglary.

Duncan Phillips, defending, said Barrass accepts that he must receive a lengthy prison sentence.

"He would like to apologise for, what he concedes was, an awful act in his part and wants to try and make it up to the people that he burgled on his eventual release from custody," said Mr Phillips.

He added that Barrass, a father-of-two, is hoping to free himself of drugs and, when eventually released from prison, wants to put decorating and plastering qualifications to good use by earning an honest living.

Jailing him, Judge Edwards told him: "Burglary is particularly unpleasant. It has profound and long-lasting consequences.

"These were two elderly people — I am sure you didn't realise that, but that's what they were.

"People never feel the same way about their home again.

"It is a violation of their home. I am sure you wouldn't want it and they certainly didn't want it."