A CHESTER man stole cash from a 77-year-old woman who had fallen ill at a city supermarket on Tuesday (August 7), in what was labelled a "repulsive" act.

Barry Hutchinson, 61, of Curzon Park North, was caught on CCTV cameras stealing money from Patricia Williams's purse as staff tended to her at the checkout of the Tesco Frodsham Street store.

Hutchinson, who pleaded guilty at Chester Magistrates Court on Thursday to the theft, was handed a six-month prison term, suspended for one year, by magistrates.

Prosecuting, Rob Youds told the court Ms Williams had gone to Tesco to do her weekly shop and was at the checkout ready to pay when she fell ill.

Behind her in the queue was Hutchinson, who had a bottle of cider he was looking to buy.

A woman at the checkout came around the till to assist Ms Williams, as did other members of staff, giving her a drink of water and checking she was okay.

When Ms Williams came to, she checked her purse and discovered £80 was missing.

Mr Youds added: "She felt upset and shaken, and nervous something like this could happen again."

Hutchinson was later discovered intoxicated, sitting by the bus station, and arrested.

When interviewed by police, he said he took £10, not £80, but officers noted more than one note was taken out of the purse. The money was never recovered.

Hutchinson had seven convictions for nine offences, all for theft, and had breached a conditional discharge.

Defending, Mark Evans said Hutchinson was alcohol dependent and had fallen out with his girlfriend.

He had no recollection of committing the offence and was "befuddled by alcohol" at the time – it took him a long time to realise he was not going to be served at that till.

He made no effort to conceal what he had done – it was an opportunistic theft.

Mr Evans added: "The incident is unpleasant, there is no getting around that. I can understand that this is repulsive."

Hutchinson had not received a community penalty before, Mr Evans said.

Chair of the magistrates Moira Chapman said: "This lady was in a vulnerable position and you took the chance to steal from her – you may say £10, it may be £80, but you stole money that did not belong to you.

"She has been very distressed as a result and she does not want to go out again."

The six-month suspended sentence handed to Hutchinson includes a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement and a three-month alcohol treatment programme.

Ms Chapman added: "You have never been to prison before, this will give you the chance to have community rehabilitation and maximise the chance for you not to reoffend again."

Hutchinson must also pay £150 compensation to Ms Williams, a £115 victim surcharge and £85 court costs. No separate penalty was imposed for the conditional discharge breach.