A THIEF who broke into an elderly neighbour's home just days after his death before stealing his car and a handful of cash has been spared jailed.

And Peter Saville, of no fixed abode, only stole the Citroen Zara car, Oxford Crown Court heard at his sentencing on Tuesday, in order to drive to Didcot to claim benefits at the local job centre.

Ahead of the sentencing Investigating Officer, Detective Sergeant Aidan Donohoe called the 40-year old's crime 'a callous offence'.

He said: "Saville has taken advantage of the death of the victim to enter his flat and steal a small amount of cash and keys to the deceased's car which he has also then taken from the small car park outside."

Prosecutor Henry James told the court at the sentencing hearing that his elderly victim died at his Church Road, Wheatley, home on February 28 just days before his 87th birthday.

While his family was sorting out his affairs on March 7, the court heard, Saville broke into the home before snatching the car keys and a handful of small change.

He took the parked Citroen and fled the scene before he was sighted in Abingdon the following day and later arrested.

He went on to claim that he had only snatched the vehicle as he needed to get to Didcot in order to sign on at the job centre for Jobseeker's Allowance.

In a victim personal statement summarised to the court the family of the victim said the ordeal had been especially traumatic as it led to delays to the funeral while police investigated the scene.

They said they were unable to enter the house to pick out his clothing for his funeral as a result of the police search.

In mitigation, his defence team said that Saville had been a drug addict at the time and offended as a result of his heroin habit, calling the break-in 'impulsive.'

Sentencing Judge Ian Pringle QC said: "The disruption to this family and the upset you caused cannot be overestimated.

"It was a desperately serious offence."

For one count of burglary he was given a 20-month jail term, and for taking a vehicle without the owner's consent he was given four months in prison, both of which were suspended for two years.

For driving without insurance and without a driving licence he was given a conditional discharge for one year as well as nine points on any future driving licence.

Saville was also made subject to a community order to include 120 hours of unpaid work, a drug rehabilitation requirement for nine months and a rehabilitation activity requirement for 25 days.