FAGIN-LIKE burglar Wesley Bowen took small children with him when he committed his crimes in Churchdown.
A nephew accompanied him on a house burglary - and the five-year-old was caught carrying Bowen's screwdriver after a woman neighbour thwarted the raid.
Bowen also took his six-year-old son with him on a shoplifting trip - using the boy's school satchel to hide the loot.
At Gloucester Crown Court on Wednesday, Judge Jamie Tabor QC lambasted Bowen, 34, for involving small children in his crimes and jailed him for a total of four years and four months.
Bowen, of Orchard Avenue in Cheltenham, pleaded guilty to burgling a family's house in Parkside Close, Churchdown, on July 31 last year and stealing a Chanel handbag and an iPad.
He also admitted that while on bail for that offence he broke into a house in Innsworth Lane, Churchdown, between December 17 and 20 last year and stole an 81-year-old war hero's two Silver Cross medals.
Bowen further admitted stealing £40 to £60 worth of Matchtalk football cards from McColl's store in St John's Avenue, Churchdown, and a variety of cakes from the nearby Co-op.
Prosecutor Janine Wood said that when Bowen broke into the home of Shane McAllister in Parkside Close last summer he left his five-year-old nephew outside.
A neighbour, Yvonne Baillie, was alerted when she heard banging from the house. She saw that a window was ajar and Bowen was inside holding a bag.
“She called the police, shut the window and prevented him leaving through the window,” said Ms Wood. “The owners arrived home and she told them what was happening.
“Mr McAllister went inside and saw the defendant run out in the garden. He was later caught hiding in Mrs Baillie's back garden.
“The defendant's five-year-old nephew was found outside the address holding a plastic bag containing a screwdriver. He said his uncle had used the screwdriver to open the window of the house.”
Ms Wood said Bowen was on bail for that offence when, in December, he broke into the home of 81-year-old John Pitt who suffers from early onset dementia.
Mr Pitt was in bed when Bowen broke in and stole a bottle of alcohol and two Silver Cross medals.
When Mr Pitt's carer attended in the morning she realised there had been a break-in.
It was difficult to check what had been taken because of Mr Pitt's condition but it was established the medals and the alcohol had gone.
Outside the property police found a plastic bag containing 10 packs of medication in Bowen's name, she said.
Realising he was already on bail they went to check local CCTV and at McColls saw film of him walking around with his six-year-old son and stealing the football cards.
At the Co-op there was CCTV of him taking cakes and putting them in his son's bag. Bowen ate an apricot Danish as he continued to wander around the shop.
On arrest he had a small amount of cannabis on him, the court heard.
Jailing Bowen for three years for the first burglary, an extra year for the second one and four months consecutive for the shopliftings, Judge Tabor said the offences were made worse by him involving the children
To steal the medals was a further aggravation, said the judge.
“You took one of the few things that really mattered to him in his life, his medals, which he had earned in the service of his country,” he said."
The judge commended Mrs Baillie's public spirited actions and bravery and said she would receive a £100 reward from the County High Sheriff.