AN ABERTILLERY man who “opportunistically” stole a woman’s mobile phone from inside her house when she was at home was given a suspended sentence.

Carl Brereton, 48, of Forge Lane, stole the woman’s iPhone from a property on High Street in Ebbw Vale on January 10.

Onlookers said he had been seen acting suspiciously before he took the phone, and he reached into the property twice before he finally took it from a windowsill.

Cardiff Crown Court heard two days later he sent a letter to the woman whose house he had burgled, claiming to be his friend, and wrote he was someone who “had a big heart”.

Tony Trigg, prosecuting, said the letter had made the victim feel scared for her wellbeing and that she thought it was from the person who has taken from her phone.

Mr Trigg said the woman’s iPhone cost her £42 per month and that it was valued at about £500.

Brereton has 21 previous convictions for dishonesty and burglary, the court heard, but had not offended since 2002.

Sentencing him to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, Judge Eleri Rees said his theft of the mobile phone had been “quite deliberate” and that the letter caused the victim “distress and a feeling of vulnerability”.

He had already pleaded guilty to burglary at a plea and case management hearing.

Ben Waters, defending, said when the theft took place, Brereton had been going through a “torrid time”, as his father, his stepfather and brother had all died in a short period.

He told the court Brereton’s depression had been exacerbated and played a part in him not thinking of the possible consequences of what he had done.

Brereton will be electronically tagged for eight weeks and must observe a curfew from 8pm until 6am. He will also pay an £80 victim surcharge at a rate of £10 per fortnight.