A MAN who ransacked the home of an elderly Winsford couple while they were at church and stole their son’s war medals has been jailed.

The victims, who are in their 70s, read an impact statement during the sentencing revealing how the incident has left them with nightmares and described the items stolen as ‘irreplaceable’.

Burglar James McCabe, of George’s Lane in Banks near Southport, broke into their home in Chester Road on Sunday, April 29, 2018, and stole numerous items of sentimental and monetary value.

This included heirlooms that had been in the family for generations and service medals awarded to the couple’s son after tours of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during the First Gulf War.

The 28-year-old was jailed at Chester Crown Court on Friday, after pleading guilty to burglary at Warrington Magistrates’ Court in November, where he donned a poppy in support of war veterans.

Speaking before the court, one of the victims said: “Sunday, April 29 will be a date forever etched on my memory, as it changed our life as we knew it.

“I went from being a confident woman to being frightened and scared. I could not stop crying and did not leave the house again for weeks.

“He invaded our home and left us feeling dirty and vulnerable, stealing items of great sentimental value passed down from my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

“He stole our son’s war medals, memorabilia he collected and items he gave us when he was young - things that can never be replaced.

“I still have nightmares of our home being invaded and we are not in a position to replace the items as we rely on our pension.

“What right has he got to come into our home, destroy it and steal our property?”

Philip Hall, prosecuting, told the court how the couple returned home to find shattered glass on the floor caused by a rock being hurled through a conservatory window to gain entry.

As well as the aforementioned stolen items, it was revealed that the McCabe, who has eight convictions for 15 previous offences, also stole jewellery, limited edition silver boxes and between £300 and £400 in foreign currency.

He also destroyed their kettle in an attempt to break into a glass cabinet.

This list is continually growing say the victims, as they frequently discover other cherished items which were pilfered, including coins which they were intending to gift to their grandchildren.

In their initial investigations, police found DNA at the ransacked scene and forensic examiners concluded that there was a ‘one in a billion chance’ that McCabe was not the burglar.

McCabe was due to be sentenced at the end of November, but this was adjourned after a plea by his council.

In a further impact statement, the victim added: “The thief’s barrister asked for more time before sentencing, which left me devastated.

“I believe this was just a ploy so that he could spend Christmas and New Year with his family and friends.

“I could see him leaving court with his friends which made me feel intimidated, and I had to sit in a room until I felt safe to leave.

“None of the items he stole have been recovered - not one item - and if I had my way, I would lock him up and throw away the key so he cannot do to decent people what he has done to us.”

In defence of McCabe, Jeremy Rawson said that his client was ‘deeply ashamed of his actions’ and indicated that he was ‘remorseful and sorry’.

Before sentencing, Judge Simon Berkson said: “While your victims were at church, you took the opportunity to burgle them in a planned and calculated way.

“You stole items of sentimental value, that to them were irreplaceable and were never recovered.”

McCabe was sentenced to three years imprisonment, of which he will serve half on licence, and ordered to pay a victim surcharge.