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Thief Matthew Beaney jailed after stealing from grandmother Gillian Smith after she was sick in Sittingbourne branch of Boots

A callous thief who stole a grandmother’s purse after she had been sick in the Sittingbourne branch of Boots has been jailed for 21 months.

A judge branded the theft a “revolting crime” and rejected the suggestion put forward by Matthew Beaney’s legal team that he had gone from “saint to sinner” after initially been concerned for Gillian Smith.

Recorder David Jeremy QC told the chronic heroin addict, who was subject to three suspended sentences at the time, that he had acted like “a predator” towards the ill woman.

'Predator' thief Matthew Beaney

“You hovered around her, pretending to comfort her. In reality you were awaiting your chance to steal her purse.

“She was in no position to notice, let alone stop you, as she sat on the chair, distressed and next to you, as you shuffled around using sleight of hand to conceal the purse.”

Maidstone Crown Court heard homeless Beaney, 29, had gone to the Boots branch in the High Street at about 9.15am on November 6 last year to collect a methadone prescription.

Ms Smith was also at the store to collect her own medication. Beaney was standing just feet away from her when she became unwell and was sick on the floor.

Prosecutor Danny Moore said Ms Smith had placed her purse on the counter before she was ill.

Referring to the CCTV which captured the incident, he told the court: “The defendant pretends to help her.

"He rubs her back, appears to look after her and as she waits seated on a chair, the defendant goes to where her purse is, picks up some magazines, covers the purse and lifts it off.”

The case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court

Beaney could then be seen tucking the rolled-up magazine concealing the purse into an inside pocket of his jacket.

He then waited to be given his methadone before leaving the shop.

Ms Smith’s purse contained personal documents, including her bank cards, driving licence, disabled railway card, and £4.

“But perhaps more importantly to Ms Smith it also contained a photograph of her grandson as a baby,” added Mr Moore.

It was not until the grandmother had recovered from her bout of sickness that she realised her purse was missing.

The court was told Beaney, who has 19 previous convictions for 46 offences, including 33 theft-related ones, was recognised by police from the CCTV images.

At the time he stole Ms Smith’s purse he was subject to three suspended prison sentences imposed for theft offences.

“You hovered around her, pretending to comfort her. In reality you were awaiting your chance to steal her purse" - Recorder David Jeremy QC

He later gave the police a “convoluted account” of how he “accidentally” picked up the purse.

“It had come into the magazines and somehow it ended up in the pocket of a jacket he didn’t usually wear and he then gave the jacket to someone else,” added Mr Moore.

Beaney, formerly of Regis Crescent, Milton, pleaded guilty to stealing Ms Smith’s purse on the day his trial was due to start.

He also admitted possessing criminal property - a flatscreen TV and a Sony Blu-ray player - which were stolen during a burglary in Chalkwell Road, Sittingbourne, on December 10.

Beaney was jailed for for 12 months for theft, six months consecutive for possessing the stolen goods, and a further three months consecutive for the suspended sentence breaches, making a total of 21 months.

Beaney will serve half his sentence, less five-and-a-half months already spent in custody on remand.

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