A burglar who smashed his way into an elderly woman's house in Essex and stole her late husband's ashes has been jailed for 15 months. Jon Murton, 35, targeted the pensioner's home in Beambridge Court, Basildon, on 23 November and made off with an urn containing the remains of her partner.

The woman, in her 80s, had lost her husband of 46 years just 15 months before the incident. Police said Murton later dumped the ashes in an alleyway nearby. Jewellery and a Kindle were also taken but never recovered.

The break-in, which police say left the victim traumatised, came 24 hours after Murton burgled the home of another pensioner – a man in his 80s who lives in Malgraves, Basildon. He made off empty-handed after being disturbed.

Murton, of Chesterford Gardens, was arrested on December 6 after handing himself in to Basildon Police Station. He was later charged with two counts of burglary. He pleaded guilty to both offences and was sentenced at Basildon Crown Court on 18 February.

Investigating officer Jo Phillips, from Basildon CID, said: "I can't comprehend why someone would steal ashes and then callously dump them in an alleyway. I can only think Murton believed the box to contain jewellery and discarded it when he discovered this was not the case.

"Luckily the box and ashes were found in an alleyway and returned to the victim. The box was ripped but the ashes were found still wrapped up nearby. Understandably this was a very traumatic experience for the victim who had only recently lost her husband after more than four decades of marriage. I can't begin to understand what she has been through and can only hope that Murton's sentencing will bring her some sense of closure to this despicable crime."