A MUM-OF-FIVE who stole purses from elderly women has walked free from court for the next six months as the judge gives her time to 'change'.

Sharon Rooney, of Jubilee Crescent in Haydock, pleaded guilty to eight counts of theft and 30 counts of fraud and appeared at Liverpool Crown Court today, Monday.

The 48-year-old stole the purses while the ladies were shopping in supermarkets in Widnes and Warrington.

Nardeen Nemat, prosecuting, said: “The first offence took place on July 6 when Rooney took the purse out of an 80-year-old lady’s handbag in Aldi in Widnes.

“She took the £100 cash, which she said she gave to her daughter for a holiday, and then uses her bank card in Asda.

"The victim is disabled and uses a walking aid.

“She says the theft has left her feeling vulnerable and she has lost the confidence to go out on her own.”

In a victim personal statement read out to the court, the lady said: “I used to love shopping and socialising but now I fear somebody is going to take advantage of me. I don’t understand how someone could do this.”

On August 19, Rooney stole a purse from an 85-year-old woman while she was shopping in Widnes.

The lady said she was most upset about a small photograph of her late son which she kept in her purse as it 'cannot be replaced'.

The following day, Rooney travelled to Warrington where she stole a mobile phone and a purse from a victim’s handbag in Morrisons.

She used the bank card in Iceland, Morrisons and on the bus which amounted to £84 and took £30 cash.

The retired woman, whose husband is housebound, said the incident has left her 'upset and worried about going out alone'.

On September 6, an 81-year-old lady was in Asda at the Oaks Shopping Centre in Widnes when Rooney stole her purse containing £100 cash.

The pensioner said: “I have lost all of my confidence and no longer feel safe.

“I was very independent and this has upset me greatly.”

On the same day, Rooney went to Morrisons in Widnes and stole a purse from an elderly woman before spending £97 of her money.

On September 7, Rooney took the purse belonging to a retired woman in Morrisons in Widnes.

She then used the bank card in shops in St Helens spending £81 and took £70 in cash.

The woman described a picture of her late husband inside the stolen purse as ‘irreplaceable’.

Returning to Warrington, Rooney went to Tesco on Winwick Road here she stole a purse from a retired woman containing £80 cash.

She spent £121 on the bank card and tried to withdraw a further £200 from a cash machine.

Finally on September 27, Rooney went to Sainsbury's on Church Street and stole a purse belonging to an elderly victim and used the bank card to spend £100 in shops in St Helens.

She also took £100 in cash from the purse.

The court heard how the single mum-of-five has 42 previous convictions for 101 offences, 62 of which are theft.

Philip Tully, defending, said: "She admits that the offences she committed were completely unacceptable and she is ashamed of herself.

"At the time she was not thinking clearly.

"Ms Rooney was struggling financially as her benefits had been reduced and was struggling to provide for her five children.

"The money was not spent on luxuries for herself but in high street shops.

"She tells me that she did not go out each day to target vulnerable and elderly women but says it became apparent that it was easier to commit the offence on these victims.

"She shows genuine remorse for her actions and her last conviction was back in 2013."

The court was also told that Rooney had a 'difficult childhood' and suffers with depression.

Judge Anil Murray said: "You committed very serious offences and caused misery for a number of vulnerable and elderly people.

"You have been out of trouble for six years but this offending, targeting vulnerable people, went on for three months.

"I will defer this sentencing until April and by then I want to see that you have changed."