A man who stole jewellery belonging to the late husband of a 78-year-old widow has been jailed for five years and four months.

Peter Barber took cufflinks, rings and medals which had great sentimental value along with brooches, chains and other items belonging to the pensioner.

The 58-year-old burglar also raided 24 other homes, including houses in Devizes and Bath, as he travelled around in his car stealing.

And in one break-in he fired ball bearings through the window before getting in and stealing from the property.

Claire Marlow, prosecuting, told Swindon crown court how the widow returned to her home on Palairet Close, Bradford on Avon, to find it had been broken into.

A rear window had been smashed and Barber cut himself on the glass, leading police to identify him from blood found at the scene.

Officers then went to his home and found jewellery and other household items taken in offence in Devizes and Bath.

Barber, of Pontlliw, Swansea, pleaded guilty to three counts of burglary and asked for 22 further offences to be taken into consideration.

The court heard he had a long history of crime with 11 previous convictions for dwelling house burglary.

Alex Daymond, defending, said all of the offences took place when there was no one in the house.

Although he had a long history of offending, he said he had not been convicted of burglary since 1994 when he was jailed for ten years.

He said that he had mental health problems, suffering schizoaffective disorder, which while not directly linked to offending.

Following his release from prison he started a relationship with a woman who was a drug addict and they had two children, one of whom was taken into care and the other who died.

"He was living a hand to mouth existence trying to cope with the problems he had at the time," he said.

Passing sentence Judge Douglas Field said "These three offences are serious in themselves. They have all the aggravating features on so often finds when someone has been broken into.

"Jewellery is taken worth a considerable amount of money but also it has a very high sentimental value to the loser.

"One of those losers was a woman of 78 and a large amount of jewellery and memorabilia was taken from her house and she has been traumatised by the experience.

"All the people who suffered from these burglaries suffered similar experiences."

As well as jailing him he also ordered the confiscation of the car he had used to take him to and from the burglaries.