A “DESPICABLE” thief who stole a handbag from a 94-year-old wheelchair user in an Oxford street has been jailed.

Sofiene Mehnana grabbed the pensioner’s bag as her wheelchair was being loaded into a car.

When police caught the heroin addict, he boasted “prison is easy”.

Mehnana, 32, appeared at Oxford Crown Court today and admitted two charges of theft and one charge of fraud.

The former chef, of Speedwell Street, Oxford, became a heroin addict in 2008 and committed the crimes in Headington in December last year.

The first theft saw him withdraw £600 using a stolen bank card between December 4 and 8.

The card was stolen from 84-year-old Joan Russell during a violent robbery at her home.

Peter Coombe, prosecuting, said Mehnana was not involved in the robbery, but had used the bank card the following day.

Describing the theft of the handbag from 94-year-old Mary Fraser, he said: “On December 10 she was driven to the post office in Headington by a friend, who was loading her wheelchair in the rear of the car when the defendant walked past.

“He said ‘are you all right?’. She didn’t take it as unusual, as she was quite used to members of the public giving assistance.

“He stooped down and took hold of her handbag in the footwell, pulled it out of the car and ran off.

“A few minutes later he went into a local shop to use the cheque book he had just taken from Mrs Fraser.

“He was told he needed identification by the shopkeeper, so he then produced the cash card, which obviously had the word ‘Mrs’ on it.

“He said it was his girlfriend’s and he would just go to get her, but he dropped the cheque book as he left.”

Mr Coombe added: “He was arrested soon afterwards and made a remark in the van on the way to St Aldate’s (police station).

“He said: “I don’t care about prison. Two years, three years, prison is easy”.”

Stephen Parker, defending, said Mehnana had come to Britain from France in 1999 and had been a “hard worker” until 2008, when he “fell into company with individuals who were abusing heroin”.

He said of the bag snatch: “Motivated by misuse of heroin, he saw this lady’s handbag.

“It was opportunistic. He seized upon it in his desperate state.”

Jailing Mehnana for a total of 21 months, Judge Julian Hall said: “The offences in counts two and three were despicable.

“You snatched the bag of somebody who was clearly elderly. You caused her the greatest distress.”