A woman who stole a charity collection box from a medical centre has been jailed.

Samantha Smiley, 44, of Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, hid the collection tin, which contained donations in aid of premature and poorly babies, in her handbag before leaving Dumbleton Medical Practice in St Neots on 2 November last year.

The court heard Smiley then went on to commit further offences in the area.

On 5 January, she entered a house in Luke Street, St Neots, through an unlocked side gate and grabbed a handbag the victim had left on her kitchen chair while she spoke to her husband in the garden.

Smiley was caught 20 minutes later on CCTV in a local store with the handbag, fraudulently buying £24.90 worth of goods with cards from the stolen purse. The items have never been found.

On 12 January, Smiley attempted to steal meat products worth more than £150 from Marks and Spencer and £175 from Waitrose, St Neots. She was challenged on both occasions and dropped the goods before making off on a bicycle.

Smiley pleaded guilty to burglary, fraud and theft and was sentenced to 33 months in prison at Peterborough Crown Court.

Detective Constable Victoria Millward, who investigated, said:

“Smiley’s actions were heartless and callous: she not only stole from a charity but also entered a victim’s home before trying her luck in local supermarkets.

“She is clearly a serial offender and I am glad we have been able to bring her to justice.”