TWO thieves who preyed on vulnerable and elderly women, before snatching their purses have been jailed.

Kevin Nanton - who has 199 previous convictions - was described by a court judge yesterday as a 'professional thief.'

His accomplice Paul Hopkins - who has 31 previous convictions - was dubbed an 'over enthusiastic amateur'.

Nanton, 52, of High Street, Witney, and Hopkins, 44, of no fixed abode, had both already admitted three counts of theft.

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Hopkins also admitted another count of fraud by false representation by using stolen bank cards to buy goods.

Outlining the case at Oxford Crown Court yesterday prosecutors said that all three thefts involved elderly women who were out shopping in Henley and Wallingford.

The first, on November 18, saw a woman lose her purse to the thieves, which had £500 cash inside as well as bank cards and membership cards.

The second theft on November 28 involved another woman whose purse was stolen.

After that theft her bank card was used to buy goods at WH Smith and also at Sainsbury's.

The third theft on December 5 saw another woman relieved of her possessions by the men.

At their sentencing hearing it was also revealed that both have a long string of previous convictions.

Nanton has 199 previous convictions while Hopkins has 31 to his name.

Sentencing, Judge Nigel Daly said the offences were 'disgraceful and disgusting'.

Referring to Nanton's extraordinarily lengthy criminal past he called him a 'professional thief'.

He added that the men had 'deliberately targeted victims on the basis of vulnerability; elderly ladies out doing their shopping.'

Nanton was jailed for a total of 40 months and Hopkins for 26 months, and both must pay a victim surcharge.